Monday, April 29, 2013

Greedy Kenyan Politicians - Time to Nip it in the Bud

I rarely advocate for the extreme reaction. Instead, I normally call for calm, deliberate reasoning and deliberations, discussions, effective assessment and then slow and cumulative conclusions that link in to each related piece, correctly, neatly and tidily. Usually, I cite least disruptive and very low-impact, responsible, responsiveness to situations.

I don't think that I am disagreeing with myself now. But I think it's time for extremely drastic actions against MPs and salary increments at their discretion. The critical aspect of this is to be found in the inability of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to rein this in. Unless Kenyans want to wed, for life, the fact that every new batch of MPs will come into office, determine the pay they get, get money for free to buy cars (what??? - this I find so insane, so completely insane, I don't know who came up with this and why we haven't tried them for stealing from tax payers coffers. If our laws don't provide such a provision, we need to make it available). To consume tax payer money so that some stupid idiot from some stupid part of the country (Nairobi and your and my neighborhood included), comes from nowhere, gets elected into office and suddenly thinks he is so worth 30 cents that he has to be "seen" in a 'certain" kind of vehicle - and then to take this money from struggling Kenyans to buy said vehicle for this idiot. This HAS got to be a crime. And if it isn't it must be made into one.

But I digress from the main point I want to make, while still within topic. Because this topic is all encompassing into daily lives and all annoying. Issues to be dealt with

1. Crazy stupid "keeping up and being the Jones'es" attitude employed and supported by Kenyans - DUMP THIS!
If you've ever left Kenya for a significant amount of time, the first thing that hits you when you return is how crazy, shallow and just downright unintelligent Kenyans can be around money. Everyone is acting like they have money. I use 'acting' because they don't have it. Everyone is living outside their means. And everyone is trying to buy status and (respect?) by acting like they have money. And they therefore end up doing and saying stupid stuff. Like they spend too much on phones and keep reciting phone model numbers like they were technicians at a store selling them. And they comment on other peoples "cheap" phones. The thought here is that this makes them cool and "with it". But for those like me, the conclusions we draw around these types of utterances and behaviour is anything but. One wonders why anyone would be so shallow, so - pardon my candor - dumb and stupid. But this flossing attitude is engrained into everyone. And I guess it is in a much larger scale when one is in parliament. Then this individual must earn his place by having the biggest and baddest guzzler in the streets. And since said MP is, by his own making and achievements, a loser who never made enough to buy said vehicle, he figures Wanjiku will pay for it. And as soon as he gets into parliament, he embarks on making that dream come true. The monster is created within the society and that's where it must be tackled from.

2. Instead, Replace it with Insightful Financial Planning at all Levels of Society
Financial Planning, aka living within your means, aka searching for a bargain, aka saving for your future, aka self identity and not group crisis should be taught to everyone and a campaign to change attitudes should be started and fully focused on. This means that classes that teach individual financial management should be offered, preferably paid for and supported by employers. Public service messages should be on every station, advocating for real happiness being found in one living within their means; cutting their coats according to their cloths like we were taught. The messages should emphasize on how we as a society need to change our attitudes and focus from associating pride to how much one has garnered to associating it to how well one has managed what they have.

I lived very close to the 5th richest street in the US. And the homes were large, palatial and older - the kind that generations pass on from one to the next. The most striking thing about these driveways? The cars they parked. Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, Nissan' Pathfinders, Jeeps and other practical, inexpensive cars were the norm. Not BMWs, not Mercedes. Even when they went luxury brand, they went practical luxury brand. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti and the Range Rover. And from the interviews with these people, it quickly became obvious that people with money don't need to advertize that fact. Interestingly, in the same city, there existed one very wealthy patriarch from one of the wealthiest families in the US who drove a Nissan Maxima. A new up and coming extremely wealthy guy bumped into him and was narrating his life changing experience. He knew he had less than a tenth of the older Matriarch's wealth and when he bumped into him, the patriarch was in his Nissan, and the newly rich guy was in a Bentley. Which he could very well afford. But he described feeling so small, so foolish and just wanting to hide. He immediately dumped the Bentley for a more reasonable car. Take that lesson for what it's worth.

The point being, we need to create a society that is capable of being embarrassed by largesse. Because, frankly, it is all inconsequential and a little childish to floss beyond a certain level. Let me frame this into perspective. The videos often watched and adored of rappers flossing and living it up in $300,000 vehicles are not from the most educated class of beings. And should be assessed and measured against the propensity to file for bankruptcy that exists amongst these groups of people. Smarter people should start acting smart.

Fringe Benefits of this? In my opinion would be that the promiscuity of women, in the hunt for sugar daddies, that has become so rampant and unimaginable, will go down. Hopefully, we can finally work it back to where women can be self respecting and not tools for trade at different levels. This topic in itself could be a novel. But we will break here for this post.

3. Immediately? - Down all Tools. _ Refuse to Work Until Comprehensive Laws that Prohibit this Current and Future MPs/Leadership from this Type of Behaviour are Drafted and Enforced

A very difficult thing to coordinate. But the only way anything of substance will get achieved. If all Kenyans are not willing to down their tools, simply by refusing to work so that MPs can live large, there will be no real impact. But if there were no wages to tax for a week, a month, or however long; and the obviousness of the tax payers input into the cost of supporting these salaries and perks is not highlighted, how else to make a very strong and impacting point?

Another strategy will be for doctors and teachers to down their tools. And each group to hang in there until they can negotiate a difference in their income so that, they make an additional X amount by cutting X amount from the MPs recently increased salaries, or loans turned grants. These very necessary set of workers can, with proper management and delegation, be used to whittle the increases back to zero. At any point they want an increase, they only end their strike after negotiating an increase based on cuts at the MP salary level. Why? they would justify this by being conscientious of the everyday wage bill, and being aware that the funds are available based on the increases merited the MPs - they can claim to want only that portion to share amongst them all (much larger numbers)while balancing incomes in the country. Not to mention rectifying brain drain as it is happening. This may yet be the most implementable solution. Of course with its concerns and headaches (in-operating hospitals or schools, for example).

In summary, I think that something must be done. Both immediately and in the long run. Immediately, to stop the current increases going on. Future and long term - really- to free all of Kenya from the burden of being wanna-be. Because it is my honest opinion that that is the fundamental breakdown that has the MPs being greedy Pigs and thinking they are more important than they will ever be. Frankly, they ain't nothing but public servants. And stop calling them 'mheshimiwa' and confusing them about their importance. Mr. [enter name here} and Ms. or Mrs. [enter name here} will suffice at all points.

And I'll end this by restating and asking - Can anyone express to me clearly why Kenya provides grants for MPs to buy personal cars? How does that benefit the country? Could we possibly be a nation that authorizes the consumption of tax payer money for personal betterment? How isn't that stealing tax payers money? Is there a lawyer who understands the Kenyan law that can convince me there isn't any article that could be used to sue the government against this practice? Because if so, those laws are weak, and they should be the first order of business!