Tackling the extreme inequalities ravaging Kenya
- When Kenya gained independence, we adopted an economic model that was capitalist in nature and not far from what the colonialists had perpetuated.
- There has been a lack of strong, deliberate political interventions to avoid this unfortunate scenario, which we have instead nurtured over the years, pushing the country into a deeper crisis.
- The problem of extreme inequalities has been exacerbated by the fact that those who control the economy also have a stake in politics.
The extreme inequality that the country has faced despite impressive economic growth since 2005 has historical roots. When Kenya gained independence, we adopted an economic model that was capitalist in nature and not far from what the colonialists had perpetuated, allowing a small group of the wealthy to control a huge part of our economy.
There has been a lack of strong, deliberate political interventions to avoid this unfortunate scenario, which we have instead nurtured over the years, pushing the country into a deeper crisis that in recent years has threatened to break up the nation. It is this inequality that shapes our political discourse today with no clear result.
The problem of extreme inequalities has been exacerbated by the fact that those who control the economy also have a stake in politics. In Kenya today, one has to amass enormous wealth to be elected to leadership positions due to the costly campaigns that have to be funded by those seeking elected office.
The gap between the richest and the poorest has reached extreme levels in Kenya. Less than 0.1 percent of the population (8,300 people) has more wealth than the poorest 99.9 percent (over 44 million people). Kenya’s richest 10 percent earn on average 23 times more than the poorest 10 percent.
The number of super-rich in Kenya is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is predicted that the number of millionaires will increase by 80% over the next 10 years, with 7,500 new millionaires expected to be created.
Inequality is not a simple technical issue. It’s not just a tire that you can fix with the right tools and the right know-how, and then get back on the road. Inequality is above all and combating it is the result of political choices. And that means tackling it is a political responsibility.
Even the United Nations has spoken out on the subject by adopting the slogan “Leave no one behind” as a soundtrack.
To reduce extreme poverty, two things must happen. First, economic growth must remain at the same level as over the past ten years, if not better. Second, this growth must integrate small traders and rural people engaged in agriculture for the creation of value chains.
Although the Kenyatta administration has undertaken huge infrastructure projects, many Kenyans continue to wallow in poverty as these projects, although they may have long-term benefits, are currently unrelated to their profession. .
To reduce extreme inequalities to sustainable levels, the Kenyan government should implement economic policies and legislation to reform the tax system, raise sufficient funds for free and quality public education and health care, and address the gap. economic inequality gap for women.
The government of Kenya has put in place policies and reforms to reduce inequalities, which should be extended to cover more diverse areas of our economy, such as supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that can serve as government suppliers. keys and create more jobs.
The only sector that has the potential to create new jobs to meet the huge demand in the informal sector popularly known as Jua Kali. Instead of importing goods that can be manufactured locally by the Jua Kali sector, the government should offer incentives on the cost of energy, taxes, creation of incubation centers to equip skills and flexible loans, among others.
The government is also to be applauded for socio-economic policies such as cash transfers to vulnerable groups and devolution of government functions and services to local levels. Above all, we must generate jobs and income for women and young people with poor future prospects. Also, we must fight against tax evasion, tax evasion, waste and corruption.
Although the promotion of rapid overall economic growth and spillover policies were widely pursued as a means of reducing poverty and inequality, income inequality and poverty remained high even when the economy reached low rates. relatively high economic growth rates.
As the saying goes, the rich cannot sleep because the poor are awake and hungry, the elites and kleptocrats must know that there is a limit to how high you can build the gates around your communities. The time has come for a paradigm shift and a shift.
Raphael Obonyo, Public Policy Analyst