You have to give it to our politicians for spicing things up in what’s been a truly Dickensian week. Let me stop kizungu mingi (I’m parodying Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro), who switched to Kiswahili when English failed him and clarify that I’m simply evoking Charles Dicken’s memorable book opening: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
The novel, of course, is A Tale of Two Cities, and it mirrors the precise circumstances of our beloved land, and the two contrasting visions of our future. On the one hand, is the vision by Prezzo Bill Ruto aka Zakayo, determined to push a legislation that will alter the architecture of taxation in this country, and potentially consign many more to a life of penury. On the other is the opposition, led by Raila Odinga aka Baba, who demands its rejection.
By the time you read this, a pliant Parliament may have capitulated to the dictates of Zakayo—his ominous warning to Kenya Kwanza MPs that they risk some unstated sanctions if they challenge the Finance Bill 2023, was likely to see it sail through. But that could also open another battlefront, as Baba hinted that he will take up the fight if Parliament fails.
This is such an anti-climax after such a calm week, starting with the national prayer breakfast on Wednesday. I wonder why those in attendance did not fast, as I hear some chaps have been doing. I was particularly moved by the joyful singing from our politicians, conducted by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana. The self-styled mamba (crocodile) of Tana River is making a comeback after being in the cold for a while.
The highlight of the week, however, was Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro who, in his capacity as chair of the influential Budgets and Appropriation Committee, tabled the Finance Bill 2023 for second reading, in Parliament.
Nyoro, who is a trained economist, went on television to canvass for the Bill. He spoke in a language close to English. This is verbatim: “I can answer in a holistic manner the issue of the cost of living and especially in a comparative sense. In a comparative sense by using inflation because basically—and I’ll go technical first, then I’ll go to what we’re doing across the entire band of the cost of living.”
This technical man speaks in a zigzag manner. What’s comparative if there is no measure of comparison? Or was he comparing the government and opposition positions?
“First of all when we talk about inflation in Kenya,” he went on. “Let me talk start with the technical side we talk about: number one, food inflation; number two, what we call fuel inflation; and number three, what we call co-inflation. The reason I have tabulated those is also to tabulate also what are we doing on each.”
Alright, is tabulation of those terms the “technical” element, or is it the enumeration of the different types of inflation? Kenyans don’t give a hoot about terms assigned to what they are experiencing. They just want food to eat.
Nyoro went on: “The cost of living is high and I agree. And the first step towards solving a problem is to accept that there is a problem…” What a shift, from economics to guidance and counselling.
“But now we are where we are. How are we there?” Nyoro posed, then proceeded to answer his own question. “Number one is that globally there has been global inflation and especially stemmed by the fact that we have seen…” he trailed in the now familiar manner so that he doesn’t stop where he started.
“You know it is usually said when the US coughs all the other economies catch cold…” It’s fine for Nyoro to invent new idioms, though it’s unlikely anyone is coughing in this summer weather.
“But we’re not in America, we are in Kenya,” he concluded.