Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fatcats and streetlights

Of course there is a link between unemployment, poverty and crime, but that is not to say that all poor people are crooks or all unemployed people will commit crimes, and anyone unable to make those subtle distinctions shouldn't comment publicly about the vandalisation of public facilities and poverty. Why is it so easy for fatcats to dismiss the unemployed or the poor or to blame them for crime?

The rich and the poor do not share many public facilities, and this socioeconomic apartheid encourages the least informed among the upper and middle classes to ignore the plight of the poor (including the unemployed) and to blame them for the breakdown in social values and the decrepitude of public facilities. And yet when we observe some of the reasons why unemployment is at an all time high, the fatcat classes are at the heart of it all, stealing from the public purse, stunting economic development and driving the causes of unemployment and, consequently, crime.

What galls is that when these same people are called out on their hypocrisy, they accuse their accusers of being NGOists, quick with a soundbite and incapable of accepting "facts" that should be plain to see. Ours is not a particularly complex socioeconomic system; real estate capital drives the bulk of wealth creation among the fatcat classes. Our booming apartment-block-building industry is proof, though it is humdrum public facilities like roads, bridges, ports, harbours, dams, bus termini, power-transmission cables and the invisible bits of the digital infrastructure that will drive up employment, especially among the youth and especially in the wealth-generating white-collar sectors (law, medicine, accountancy, entertainment) and manufacturing industries.

The reason why we are building apartments for Russian oligarchs and Italian mafiosi is because the money that we should spend on building a railway network as opposed to a railway line has beenlets be generous and say "reallocated"—reallocated by self-interested public officers with vested interests so embedded that sit makes the vandals of the Thika Superhighway look like chaste members of the church choir. In fact, Kenya is on track to manufacture more laws and apartments for the rich than it needs, instead of spending all those billions of dollars it is borrowing to solve some of the economic problems of its poor and unemployed, like affordable healthcare, housing, tertiary-technical education and vocational training, and recreation.

Kenya isn't unique in this, but the self-righteous myopia  of its ruling class has a uniquely Kenyan tinge to it. Those who blather on and on about how all the problems of Kenya could be resolved by severely punishing the poor and the unemployed for vandalising streetlights are the same ones who will still consume copious snifters of Single Malt with the biggest swindlers in the public service without batting an eyelid in the hopes that they will win fat consultancies for non-existent communications strategies.

Some of us still have a simplistic and academic view of justice; everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. Poverty (and unemployment) may explain some crimes but not all crimes. Some of the biggest and most heinous crimes have been committed by some of the richest people. Anyone who simply fails to acknowledge this is an idiot.

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