it is time more districts translated into wider taxation

President Kibaki has created about 180 districts over the last 6 years. The logic behind the creation of the many districts, according to the president and his men, has been that there is a need to bring government services closer to the people. One obvious question then is what government services? Are we talking about registration of births and deaths, motor vehicle registration, licensing, issuance of title deeds, judicial services and all that stuff? Because these services are still mostly highly centralised, requiring one to travel either to Nairobi or to far off provincial headquarters. Critics of the new districts have oftentimes highlighted their high cost and non-viability (The president thinks such critics are “backward”).

It was therefore welcome news when yesterday the president announced the halting of the creation of new districts – citing financial reasons. For some reason this fact (high costs) never crossed the minds of the president’s advisers somewhere between new district # 1 and # 180.

And now that we have over 180 new and expensive districts – most of them dished out for political reasons and “people’s demands” – I think it is time we require the new districts, being local governments, to do what governments do: TAX EVERYONE. Each district should be required to raise a percentage of its expenses from local populations (it is quite unfair for Nairobians to pay for non-viable districts in remote parts of the country created purely for political reasons). This minimum requirement need not be uniform across the board – people in West Pokot need districts too, you know – but should be geared towards making local people bear some responsibility for their local governments. With local funding for local districts, Kenyans may be persuaded to care more about who gets appointed to be DC and what their DC and the many district committees do. And to add to the positives, the DC’s will have an incentive to promote local economic activity to generate revenues.

Eventually, one hopes, this idea of local taxation for local services will make Kenyans demand that they get to elect their local DC’s instead of having State House appoint them.

This may sound like a pipe-dream but there is hope. Given parliament’s increasing assertiveness and power-grab from the executive and judiciary it is conceivable that such an idea can successfully be passed into law by the august House. Does someone know a crafty MP with nothing to lose who can champion this cause?

ps: I never thought I’d ever say this but I am actually missing the Standard online edition. What happened to them? Can’t they afford a website?

kibaki names cabinet

President Kibaki has just announced a new cabinet. In his cabinet, he has included the Hon. Kalonzo as vice president and minister for home affairs. Also included in the cabinet are former members Michuki, Karua, Saitoti, Wetangula, Kimunya, Kiraitu, among others.

The announcement could not have come at a worse time. The country was just gearing for negotiations between Kibaki and the main opposition leader Raila. The nation had expected the president to show goodwill by not naming a cabinet until negotiations were underway. It is likely that the main opposition group, the ODM, which maintains it won the Dec. 27 polls will not take this announcement lying down.

By announcing his cabinet, or part of it – since he does not have enough “national” MPs, the president has shown that he is not taking the negotiation process seriously. He should realize that now is not the time to be partisan about matters. He ought to have waited until a solution was found out of the impasse that has gripped the country for nearly two weeks before forming a government.

This new development is likely to generate more heat in Kenya’s political climate. On Tuesday Raila refused to hold any talks with Kibaki unless the talks were mediated by an international observer. President Kofuor of Ghana is now likely to leave the country without any success as both sides dig in by taking confrontational rather than reconciliatory positions.

Full list available here