Why the Big 4 Agenda will Fail…

The Big 4 Agenda has been touted by the Kenyan ruling Jubilee Party as the ‘Canaan’ for millions of Kenyans who have lived under years of dysfunctional institutions since the country acquired independence. The Big 4 Agenda is pillared on 4 action plans.

  1. Enhancing Manufacturing
  2. 100% Food Security
  3. Universal Health Coverage
  4. Affordable Housing

Whereas i laud the Kenyan government for its visionary transformation in social programs particularly areas of universal education (pioneered by Kenya’s third President Mwai Kibaki) and now Universal Health Care, i beg to differ on the other three pillars touted at taking Kenya to the next level.

With Manufacturing, Food production and Housing the government is dipping its feet (on tax payers monies), in areas which it is not well suited to be in, and which if my skepticism is proved right it might not succeed, and might fail miserably.

Now i hear your sneers, Yes, those sneers and mouth smacks louder than an irked Nigerian woman , but please hear my arguments out.

When it comes to prosperity, no other country in the world has mastered the art of wealth creation in the last 150 years than the United States of America (albeit their historical blunders — read Vietnam, pilfering resources around the world, pointless wars, supporting rogue dictators and electing blithering idiots….story of another day).

What the land of the Donald has however perfected, is the Free Market. However, the idea of a free market has been of trials and errors as Prof. Burton Folsom will tell you, they have learned from years of failure that a free market just works. When it comes to resource efficiency and innovation, nothing beats the insatiable human desire for more profits and hence the ability of society to move forward due to private greed as opposed to government goodwill.

The government at worst should be on the sidelines and at best just keep its nose outside the market. This is a perfect explanation of why, whereas Donald Trump is obviously the biggest clown of US presidents; the US economy is so competitive and growing in leaps and bounds creating millions of jobs while at it.

As a good student of history there are several classical cases in history that have fed to the US psyche of free market.Take John Jacob Astor who in 1808 began the American Fur Company and began expanding his enterprise around the world.

He was making so much money, that the government wanted to be in on the action. It therefore subsidized its own fur company run by a government operative named Thomas Mckenney. Despite, the subsidies and bottomless money pit the Mckenney led fur government enterprise lost money year after year, leading to congress in 1822 to shut down the business. More examples

This and other examples of government backed enterprises making losses is confounded by the fact that incentives for government bureaucrats are very different from those of entrepreneurs. Junior government employees who run the backbone of these grandiose government projects receive no personal benefits and hence put minimum efforts to them. If money is lost, it’s the taxpayers money (read — nobodies money) and again no loss to them personally. They have no incentive to improve service, find new customers or to expand their enterprises. But for entrepreneurs: cheaper, better service for customers means better profits, more customers and more individual benefits. This is why economic prosperity comes from free market as opposed to government subsidies and projects.

Back home the record of failure for government enterprise, parastatals and initiatives is mind boggling. From Kenya Airways to Mumias Sugar, NYS to Economic Stimulus Package, National Cereals and Produce Board to the Kenya Meat Commision — the landscape is littered with carcasses of failed government initiative. The government is just not a good innovator. Period!

The fact that the government therefore, has earmarked billions of shillings (some of it in expensive debt) to pour into these state led projects scares me to my core. Not to mention the appetite by government operatives and tenderprenuers in Kenya to salivate on the tender processes that are associated with such projects.

Nevertheless, i cannot provide such scathing criticism without suggesting some solutions (although i did not go to school for anybody).

First, the government should earmark these pillars as they have, but use taxpayers money only to facilitate private enterprise to actualize these dreams — by providing tax incentives, favorable business environments, incubation hubs, facilitate stakeholder forums and capital acquisitions by these private firms (Case in point — East and Central Africa’s most successful company, telecommunications behemoth Safaricom ).

Private enterprise will not only do it cheaply, more inventively, but in the process create hundreds of thousands of jobs that the millions of Kenyan youth so desperately want and deserve.

Secondly, the government should end its obsession with old ways of becoming rich — read industrialization, manufacturing — paths of the past which are slowly being replaced by automation. It should instead invest heavily in the opportunities that exist in the 4th Industrial Revolution that is sweeping the world like a storm. With an English speaking well-educated population of majorly young people, and with the right facilitation, the swathes of zombie-like youth chewing Muguka across the nation, can offer and export these new service skills all around the world raking in unprecedented wealth and lifting everyone out of poverty whereas offering them dignified jobs and sources of livelihoods for them and their families.

Otherwise, i am sorry to say — if the Government of Kenya doesn’t dislodge its muddy footprint from areas it has no expertise in, it might fail miserably in delivering the Milk and Honey it has promised its citizens in the form of the big 4 agenda and perpetuate another missed opportunity of prosperity for a generation…