People walk along Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]
Life has become very difficult for everyone but more so for the ordinary mwananchi. People have lost jobs. Economic opportunities have shrunk. The cost of living has shot up as the prices of basic goods have increased.
Sugar, cooking oil, paraffin, bread, rice, maize meal, even vegetables have all become expensive for many reasons. They are in short supply. The global supply chain has been seriously affected by Covid, the war between Russia and Ukraine, global economic decline and a significant decline in local commercial production. What should mwananchi to do? Where can one find balm for this hardship?
There is no easy answer to that question. There is no immediate relief. But the government – national and local – can and should start thinking seriously about how to resolve the debilitating economic situation for the millions of Kenyans who are suffering.
The local government, because it is closer to the people, will be more hard-pressed to alleviate the suffering of the people. We in Mombasa always feel the heartbeat of Kenya’s economy first before other Kenyans. After all, we are County 001. We are the port of entry and exit for Kenya’s goods.
We are still the regional port of preference for goods from and into the neighbouring countries. We receive hundreds of ships from all over the world every year. Thus, we get to know what is happening in other parts of the world as we receive goods, and the rest of the world gets a feel of Kenya as they receive our exports. We are also the key tourist destination for foreign and local tourists.
Therefore, when Mombasa suffers, Kenyans suffer more. If there are no jobs and no money in the coastal city, the rest of Kenyans will be short of cash. For Mombasa is also an economic home for thousands of Kenyans from upcountry. If economic recovery were to happen quickly in Kenya, it would have to start in Mombasa.
Mombasa has to lead the way in thinking about ways to make our factories work, our service sector to tick again, our tourism industry to recover its past glory and exports to head out to the rest of the world again. Mombasa has to occupy its rightful position as an economic hub, not just for Kenya but also for the region.
I see a Mombasa that strives to renew its glory as an old city along the Indian Ocean. A city that visitors from many parts of the world will continue to visit for its beaches and culture.
The county government should regenerate the city by building on the renewal programmes of the current government in several sectors.
We will strive to accelerate the programs to make our beaches cleaner, secure and accessible to all citizens. We will work with the hotel and tourism sector to look more towards local tourism. Rebuild the neighbourhood economies by ensuring that all traders and small and medium enterprises are enabled to do business. We shall support the local manufacturing sector by investing in infrastructure and making the process of setting up business easier and faster.
Our key task will be to take the government to the people – serikali mtaani – to make it easy for mwananchi to access government services but also be involved in making decisions about matters that affect their daily lives. Devolution of the government was meant to make mwananchi to see, feel and participate in governing herself. It was about the ruled engaging with their rulers, or, more specifically, their servants in public offices. It was expected to demystify government, which previously acted more as sirikali instead of serikali. Our proposal to have serikali mtaani is not necessarily new. It is simply to extend local government as it is today to the grassroots. Our intention is to ensure that each home in a village, every village in a sub-county, and all sub-counties in the county contribute, equally and fully to policies and administrative decisions and plans. After all, our constitution is very clear that the authority to govern derives from the will of the people.
The task before us after the general elections is difficult. But it is not insurmountable. In fact, the work that has to be done to start economic recovery nationally and locally is to build on the gains that the outgoing governments have made. The renewal will be guaranteed by our fidelity to the constitution, especially how we nurture and institutionalize devolution. It will be easy to make economic gains if we work hard, pay our taxes but also use the money collected appropriately by avoiding wastage and theft. We shall have to incubate business ideas and deliberately support local investments. This way we shall encourage productivity and self-reliance. Na yote yanawezekana.
The writer is the MP for Mvita Constituency and Gubernatorial Candidate for Mombasa County
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