Opposition Leader, RAILA ODINGA, says Kenya cannot grow with high job cuts and high cost of living – (A MUST READ Statement)
We began 2013 with anxiety about the elections, which passed peacefully, but left Kenyans divided in almost equal halves. One half felt happy while the other felt deeply disappointed and cheated.
However, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) resolved to accept the verdict and move on with the task of holding the government to account.
As we enter 2014, the high and rising cost of living that set in immediately after elections persists and has become the new anxiety.
A raft of taxes on petroleum products, banking and electricity has led to a rise in cost of living as was expected. A rise in the cost of transport and electricity always results in a rise of everything else.
Cord intends to make reduction of the cost of living its primary agenda in 2014. We will follow this with a sustained focus on deteriorating security, the re-emergence of corruption in government, rising unemployment and defence of democratic gains and civil rights that are being reversed.
The Jubilee administration significantly reduced the number of ministries compared to the Grand Coalition Government in order to cut the cost of running the country. We welcomed it hoping it meant we would be taxed less and served better.
Instead, the cost of running the government has only risen and everything is being taxed.
Jubilee said it would create jobs. Where a sign stood proclaiming Hakuna Kazi, Jubilee promised to mount new ones saying Kuna Kazi.
A year later, they are talking of retrenching civil servants. They have stopped the counties from recruiting staff. Joblessness is on the rise while anxiety has gripped the civil service. The 30 per cent procurement quota for the youth is being undermined by a provision that gave government officials room to explain why the youth could not get the tenders.
We will vehemently oppose retrenchment of civil servants and push for counties to be given money to recruit new staff from outside the civil service.
The government also appears to be procuring goods and services at exaggerated prices. Wheeler-dealers in the system are reopening old tenders and awarding them to those willing to part with bribes.
We are going to constitute a Procurement, Taxation and Cost of Living Committee of Cord to examine whether Kenyans are getting value for money.
We are going to demand further amendments to the Finance Act of 2012, which introduced a 10 per cent excise duty on transaction fees for financial as well money transfer services. We shall also demand a thorough reduction or even abolition of taxes on fuel and electricity.
Kenyans deserve a compassionate, caring government, not the one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it being applied. In any case, Jubilee promised that there would be no increase in power tariffs; a promise they have quietly betrayed.
We are less secure today than we were at this time in 2012. The Westgate attack, the most vicious on our country in over a decade, is yet to be fully investigated. We will be demanding a detailed report on Westgate and a more systematic and methodical approach to making Kenya secure.
The Nyumba Kumi programme, shoot-to-kill order and deployment of the military in purely homeland security operations are not the answers in our view.
In fact, we will be demanding a complete withdrawal of the military from our streets. The solution lies in reforming our police force in line with our changing challenges and security demands. But Jubilee has undermined the exercise at every turn.
We expect Jubilee to abandon all attempts to sneak in a demi-god head of police who alone decides who is a criminal and who is not, who should be arrested and who should be shot dead on sight. Police reforms must proceed in line with the Constitution.
You can tell how a government wants to run a country by how it handles the media and the civil society. Jubilee has abused its tyranny of numbers by passing an oppressive media law and attempting to frustrate the civil society. The government is continuing this trend with the forced digital migration that is keeping Kenyans in information darkness.
It is pushing for a shoot-to-kill law that will leave Kenyans at the mercy of the police. Cord intends to rally Kenyans against these bad moves to the bitter end.
We expect Jubilee to run Kenya as it is today not as it was 49 years ago. This means fully recognising and supporting county governments in an open and transparent manner.
We will push for governors to be involved in security and infrastructure development. We want the national government to designate all class D, E, F and other roads to be managed by county governments with appropriate funding. The county governments are scouting for investors in vain if they cannot guarantee security and a functioning infrastructure.
It is our expectation that Kenya will reclaim leadership of the region and its ambition to lead the entire continent this year. In the past year, this leadership and ambition have been jeopardised and Kenya has seemed to follow, rather than lead.
We look forward to seeing Africa use its voice for the sake of its long-suffering people. Africa has always used its voice on the global stage to champion anti-people agenda and protect the interests of the leaders. This must change.
A number of trade negotiations under the EPA are set for conclusion in 2014. We wish to see our leaders display the kind of resolve and unity with which they protect each other during these negotiations for the sake of the people.
Mr Odinga is the opposition leader in Kenya.