Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dr Kidero, you are living your test...

It rained yesterday. Some parts of Nairobi carried on as before. Some parts of Nairobi came to a halt. If you are one of the few lucky ones who lives in Nairobi's well-planned, relatively speaking, and well-serviced, again, relatively speaking, leafy suburbs, you drove to work with nary a thought to the vast majority that had to contend with jacked-up PSV fares, over-flowing drains, over-flowing sewers and extremely muddy pavements and roads. This is my message to Evans Kidero, governor-elect of Nairobi: make life livable for those who don't have the luxury of a regular pay-cheque, private transport or functional municipal services, and you'll do more to turn Nairobi into an economic powerhouse than all your bond issues ever will.

An interesting article appeared in the Daily Nation some years ago. The author's argument was that the middle classes in Nairobi, and other urban centers in Kenya, are heavily subsidised by the men and women we casually mistreat on a day-to-day basis. The men who stand post outside our homes, the women who cook for us, clean our homes and look after our children live in some of the most squalid conditions simply because we refuse to pay them a fair wage. If we were to pay them the true market wage that they deserve, one of two possibilities arise: the middle classes would stop paying for other luxuries, driving down the amount of spare cash in circulation, reducing imports and manufacturing, etc; or they'd sacrifice these services, leading to increased unemployment and its attendant social consequences.

It is a fiction that a Kenyan government is on the way to rescue our servants; this is only something that can be achieved by a well-run government in Nairobi. The City Council was once the pride of the nation; today it is a by-word for corruption, insensitivity, cruelty, callousness and outright thievery. Before you settle into your new office at City Hall, pray take a walk through the City Hall Annex at the corner of Muindi Mbingu Street and Kaunda Street. This will tell you all you need to know about what musty be done to revive the City of Nairobi to its bygone days of glory.

Many of the men and women who work for us, whether at home or in our places of work, have to do with the very worst in municipal services. Their families suffer with them, especially their children. The shambles in service delivery to their residential areas is a principle reason why their share of disposable income in the grand economic scheme of things remains small. To reduce the share of their income they spend on healthcare, transport or security is not rocket science; it is only the will to invest in their well-being that successive city councils have lacked. You have the opportunity to invest in improved transport management, sewers, drains and open (green) spaces in these areas to see not only the quality of their lives improve, but their level of productivity rise too. You only need to seize the opportunity. You have promised to work for the people of Nairobi. Let us test the sincerity of your pledges.

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