In the 6 years since the 2010 Constitution came into force in 2013 and opened the way to Devolution, every one of the 47 Counties has made it a priority to attract investment from County, Kenyan and international investors, in recognition that only by attracting investment will Counties, and Kenya as a whole, create the decent paying jobs that are so desperately needed.
The taxes generated by such investments, and even more by the economic activities these investments stimulate, are also the only meaningful way that Counties will achieve sustainable financial viability, thereby weaning themselves from dependence on the National Treasury for financial sustenance. We have seen Counties hold international investment fairs, and send delegations out to woo investors, activities that KEPSA lauds, supports and encourages.
It is, therefore, profoundly shocking and saddening to witness the Governor of Kajiado County lead a crowd into the takeover of the premises and operations of Tata Chemicals Limited, a major business legitimately operating in Magadi for more than a century, and has been the centrepiece of Magadi’s economic development and prosperity. This action has been justified in the name of addressing alleged grievances including unpaid land rates and royalties totalling Kshs 17 billion since 2013, exposing residents to health risks through dust emissions, and the company not ceding part of its land to residents.
These grievances may very well be legitimate. But the same Constitution that gave birth to Counties and devolved powers to them also contains grievance resolution mechanisms. Hooliganism of the kind demonstrated by the County Governor is not one of those mechanisms. Instead, such actions will only serve to drive legitimate business away from Counties such as Kajiado, and ultimately away from Kenya, with untold consequences for Kenyans’ prospects for a better future.
The private sector, from giant multinationals to the Mama Mboga and the street hawker, is the one responsible for paying the taxes that power the Kenyan economy. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of appreciation by certain politicians of the disastrous impacts some of their actions can have on the country’s economic prospects.
It is then left to the private sector to bear the cost of such irresponsible action as witnessed in Kajiado, in terms of foregone business, and increased taxes to replace revenue that is lost through such actions. It is time we called such leaders to account. Through KEPSA, the private sector says NO! NO! NO! to hooliganism masquerading as pursuing the People’s cause.
KEPSA will continue working with those Counties that are willing to join hands with us in promoting investment, jobs, higher living standards and hope in our youth that the future is indeed bright. We hope that the events at Kajiado are not indicative of a growing trend. We stand ready to work with Counties in looking for amicable solutions to any legitimate concerns that County and/or communities may have with businesses.