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Proposed county revenue sharing formula lopsided

By Ibrahim Sheikh | July 20th 2020

Folklore has it that once, there was a rich man herding 99 camels in the fields when he came across a lonely man who was grazing only one camel. Without any hesitation or sympathy, he started strategising on how to obtain the one camel from the herdsman to add to his flock, and reach his desired target of 100 camels.

This story reminds us of the current situation in which the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) wants to snatch the meagre revenues which were hitherto in favour of marginalised counties and give to richer ones to enlarge their wealth portfolios.

The country finds itself at a crossroads regarding one of the key pillars of devolution, which is revenue allocation. The current standoff over the new formula for revenue allocation should prick the conscience of the nation since it directly contradicts the substance and spirit of the 2010 Constitution, which entrenched in law the critical virtue of equity.

Equity was central to the development of the Constitution because the curses of discrimination, marginalisation, ethnic balkanisation, regional segregation and inequitable distribution of resources had reached worrying levels.

In fact, it was the collective desire of the country to tackle the ghosts of underdevelopment and inequitable allocation of resources to the hitherto marginalised areas that pushed the Commission for Revenue Allocation to be included as a constitutional commission under Chapter 15 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The Constitution is sacrosanct, and none of its creatures, like the CRA, should fiddle with its mandate to make nonsense of the cardinal pillars of devolution and equity.

The CRA is rooting for the following formula of CAi= 0.45PNi + 0.26ES +0.18PIi + 0.08LAi +0.02FEi + 0.01DFi, to allocate revenue to the counties. ‘CA’ refers to the total revenue allocated to the county. ‘PN’ is the population index, ‘ES’ is the equal share, ‘PI’ is the poverty index, ‘LA’ is the landmass index, ‘FE’ is the fiscal effort while ‘DF’ is the development factor. But why does this formula matter? It is controversial because it is supposed to address our inequalities and disparities, with the sole vision of achieving a free, fair, just and peaceful country in which every citizen feels as part of the whole.

Historical problems

But does it? No, it doesn’t! This proposed formula seeks to reward population density while marginalising further areas which were lagging in development.

Kenya’s problems are largely historical, and we should face them head on. Right from colonial times, the sparsely populated arid and semi-arid parts of this country were excluded from the agenda of national development.

That’s why during the colonial era, certain parts of Kenya had tarmacked roads, piped water, fully-equipped and well-staffed medical facilities and state-of-the art schools.

However, some counties, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas, only got tarmacked roads and modern hospitals after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which triggered the equitable allocation of revenues from the national government without the influence of political patronage.

The skewed development policies of the colonial era were largely inherited by the post-independent ruling class and the situation never improved. In fact, the Sessional Paper No 10 of 1965 drove the last nail on the coffin of development of Northern Kenya and other arid and semi-arid areas. Are some entities trying to reintroduce the Sessional Paper No 10 of 1965 through the backdoor?

The new constitutional dispensation liberated us and we can’t allow the CRA to return us to the dark old days of underdevelopment and dehumanising living conditions.

The lopsided policies of the colonial and post-colonial era created a predictably sustained rural-urban migration, which has in effect resulted in population booms in already developed parts of Kenya.

Human beings are normally attracted to developed areas with comfortable infrastructure, and this depopulates less developed areas.

We shouldn’t use the proposed formula which perpetuates these disparities. Everyone knows that the formula isn’t cast in stone, therefore, the Senate should now develop a new formula that promotes equity and justice for the arid and semi-arid areas.

The depopulation of the northern Kenya was deliberate and needs no emphasis.

Had the colonial and post-colonial governments developed industries and factories, built schools and hospitals and other amenities in the arid north, we’d also be experiencing population booms! We were discriminated against before, and we can’t allow the CRA to perpetuate the same by employing unfair parameters in calculating revenue allocation.

And we should ask the hard questions. Should we continue pursuing such biased policies which created and rewarded specific regions of the country, when we know very well that it’s wrong, unfair and unjust to do so? Development of a country is always a deliberate process, and we should be very deliberate and honest in addressing our national challenges.

-The writer is a resident of Wajir and comments on topical issues.

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