Ultimately, the President waded into the revenue allocation debate today. And guess what? He implicitly threw his weight behind the rich counties furore! He was quoted in the media as saying: “Why is it being said that Nairobi is a rich city, yet there are people in Korogocho who still use flying toilets. Don’t they have a right to the money? The truth will come out.” Korogocho is in Nairobi. It implies there is no such thing as rich or poor counties as even Nairobi has the poor. I beg to disagree!
According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report on Comprehensive Poverty on 10th August 2020, Nairobi is the richest county in the country, with only 16% of its population living in poverty, in terms of jobs, housing, education and health. Nyeri, Meru, Kirinyaga and Kiambu are the next richest, all with a fifth or less being poor, according to the report. In simple terms, it means less than 2 in every 10 persons can be classified as poor!
Compare with the poorest counties in that report, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, Kilifi and the poverty ratio is 4 out of every 5 persons! These are among 19 deprived counties which the Government is fighting tooth and nail to take away sh 17B. The same KNBS report states that poverty incidence in these rural counties is 67% whilst in urban areas such as Nairobi, Kiambu, etc it is only 27%.
Nairobi has the highest GDP of 22%, and receives the highest county allocation, averaging over sh 15B per annum. In addition, it collects its own revenue of over sh 11B per annum. Now, it has received sh 29B through Metropolitan Authority too. And the National Government which retains sh 2.7 trillion budget is based in the city! And it is the seat of power and home to top UN and other international donors.
Korogocho is what it is, like Kibera and others, not for lack of money but a dearth of leadership and misplaced priorities. Korogocho is 10 min drive from State House. Kibera has been the bedroom of the former Prime Minister for years. Allocations to Nairobi may well have been spent generously in the affluent neighbourhoods rather than the slums. Similarly, the poor in Central Kenya is courtesy of decades of poor management and misappropriation of the farmers’ tea, coffee, and other produce incomes, part of $50 billion stashed in tax havens as reported recently by World Bank.
But for Turkana, Mandera, Kilifi, the situation is dire in every aspect, including food security, health, education, water, roads, jobs, housing etc. Kenyans watch on TV screens every year how extreme hunger forces residents to waste way or eat wild fruits, and humanitarian relief.
The Government cannot turn a blind eye to this situation and place these regions on the same pedestal as Nairobi. Fairness and equity will demand that the President directs his team in the Senate to stop their reggae and allocate more funds to the deserving regions.
Billow Kerrow is former Mandera County Senator