Comparative edge must inform revenue sharing

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 00:00 | By
Senate in session. Photo/PD/FILE

The chaotic scenes at the Senate the past few weeks are a revelation of existing grievances in areas that have been neglected for the past five decades.

At the center of the struggle is the politics of resource allocation to the devolved units which has proven to be extremely emotive.

The debate, however, must spark the resolve of translating policies on paper to practical implementable actions.

It calls for a national conversation on the comparative advantage of each devolved unit by examining unique investment that could spur substantial economic and social development. 

To avert future dispute on resource allocation, sharing must be guided by scientific research.

The current revenue allocation quagmire, in my view, is as a result of limited public participation and lack of proper and adequate understanding of regional geographical potential.

Given that it is not possible to clearly match revenue allocated to particular counties with the potential development without well-articulated plans, misconceptions will always abound.

For instance, as proponents of ‘one man, one shilling’ stand are banking on the population to lay claim to higher allocation, opponents see the marginalisation as a reason for slow population growth, hence the need for special treatment of their counties.

All these views are valid and the conversation must be encouraged. But it must not be a reason for plunging the country into political chaos; rather as an opportunity for soul searching among policy makers.

While it is important to fight for more resource, the place of proper understanding of investment is of monumental significance.

In Kenya, for decades, magnificent policy documents have been developed to guide investment in different sectors and regions, but little progress has been achieved. Clearly there must be a mismatch.

These detours, especially in agriculture, according to research, could be the inability of policy makers to cluster regions as per their production capability.

Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda will not be achieved if the current resource allocation squabble persists.

To solve the impasse, leaders must seek amicable solutions informed by honest debate on potential of different projects in different counties.

For instance, it would be imprudent to deny extra resources to arid and semiarid areas in the pretext of low population.

Several studies show that with proper infrastructure, large swaths of land in the northern parts of Kenya might be more valuable than gold mines. 

As former Israeli PM Shimon Peres quipped, agriculture development was 95 per cent science and  five per cent physical.

It is imperative for Kenya to tap its endowment in human capital and invest in research and development.

It should be mandatory for counties to carry out feasibility studies on investment that could spur both economic and social growth then call for resources.

Calestous Juma in his book New Harvest hints at the monumental development results Kenya could achieve if targeted investment informed by scientific research is adopted.

Being an international business hub, evidence of diversity in devolved units in Kenya will attract considerable foreign direct investment which will boost growth.

Even with the little resources allocated, unless wanton stealing is stopped, the country will remain underdeveloped.

Recent reports of embezzlement of money allocated for Covid-19 support point to a sad reality. 

Consequently, it must concern every citizen when funds are squandered by few elites instead of being used to develop public goods. — The writer is  the communication & political advisor to West Mugirango MP

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