Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It is not incest.

It is not an incestuous relationship, but it is riddled with perfidy, conflicts of interest, inefficiency and great anger. The relationship between business and the Government of Kenya, the whole government and not just the national government, is a strange one. Nurtured since pre-independence it has survived SAPs, PEVs, quasi-sanctions and five changes of government and three changes of the constitutional order. It is the only relationship that is perfectly symbiotic and mutually benefitting. It is an indictment of hope over sense, faith over logic.

The easiest way to assess the insidiousness of the relationship is to examine the ranks of the monied and the landed. For months now we have been discussing the Coast Land Question, with the President and his Cabinet Secretary, and the National Land Commission promising that the problem will be solved once and for all. But a not-so-casual examination of the land records of the Coast, where they can be found, will swiftly demonstrate that all this talk hides more than it reveals.

The number of former public officers and civil servants who happen to own and operate beach hotels sitting on land "allocated" to them in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980 and 1990s is a veritable Who's Who of the senior ranks of Jomo Kenyatta's and Daniel Moi's regimes, as well as former parliamentarians, army officers, policemen and "business associates" of the former presidents. Indeed, if there is a former member of the Cabinet in either regime who does not own a beach plot, that must be the rare Minister who ran afoul of Mzee and Baba.

So it is no surprise that business welcomes with open arms a new Bill to further regulate the securities industry, especially the so-called "advisors" offering financial and investment advice. You would think that the Bill is a solution to a problem that has bedevilled the financial sector what with the number of Kenyans getting ripped off by financial institutions. You would be horrifically wrong. The principle aim of the Bill is to establish another "authority" which shall levy fees and do precious little to solve the problems for which it was originally set up to do anyway. It's secondary aim will be to use the resources it has accumulated for the express purpose of joining the rest of the Government of Kenya in investing in the real estate sector by building a massive office building and charging exorbitant rents to those who have the balls to pay. 

And in a decade or so when a review of the law that led to its establishment is done, it is almost certain that a new report recommending a "restructuring" of the sector will recommend mergers of regulatory agencies "and streamlining" process by establishing a new super-agency. And the wheel will have turned full circle and we will be where we left of a decade earlier. What should make you smile in a light-bulb moment of realisation is that the men or women chosen to head these authorities have had deep and lasting relationships with the Cabinet Secretaries making the decisions, or their Principal Secretaries. And the ones appointed to "investigate" the problems in that sector and recommend the establishment of the authority are connected to those that will be appointed.

While in the past the sole purpose of the Central Government was to transfer prime land assets to favoured sons and daughters, the scarcity of such land and the conflicts now inherent in land have required the National Government to transfer financial assets or control of financial assets or control of the agencies that oversee the management of financial assets from the government to favoured sons - and daughters. What we have done is exchanged one part of the machinery of perfidy from land to finance without solving national problems - or indeed any problems.

No comments: