By Wandia Njoya
If you want to understand neoliberalism, I have one name for you: Beyond Zero.
This is the script and cast:
1. A government that fails to provide social services like health and education, often due to corruption and zombie economics. Worse, it de-funds a device and refuses to pay workers like nurses and teachers. And then it calls on private sector to chip in, but pays a fee to the consultancy much more than it would have cost to provide the service and pay workers.
2. “Private sector”: these are capitalists who have run out of ideas. They’ve figured that the biggest money to be made is not from innovation and selling products to consumers, but telling governments to pay them to provide a social service. The CEOs schmooze with government officials at the Muthaiga clubs of this world, all of them plotting how they’re going to stop equipping government facilities and paying government workers. The politicians remove regulations on the services, while the private sector runs a media blitz telling you how public services are necessarily bad and private sector can do a better job, and so we need PPPs. When private sector bills the government, government pays them much, much more than it would have spent providing the service.
3. A benevolent, well meaning philanthropist. When she’s cute like the first lady, she becomes more difficult to criticize. The philanthropist must be rich and well meaning. In the US, billionaires are not necessarily ruling families. In Kenya, they are one and the same. The philanthropist ignores the cause of the failure of public services, and selflessly offers to contribute or raise funds for the social service the government continues to collect taxes for, but fails to provide.
4. A fundraising event: this is where the public is given the opportunity to ooh and aah, share hugs and kisses and brush shoulders with the rich and famous. In this case, it’s the only time we get to see Muigai as a loving husband.
5. And this is the worst part: a list of donors that includes government bodies that have failed to provide the service, and corporates who receive government tenders to provide social services. That’s how the British government is undermining NHS, while the consultancies like McKinsey celebrate over champagne. At the 2016 marathon, contributions came from DP, and the same Ministry of Health that has failed to provide the service that our taxes pay for.
The donors don’t mind the huge contributions. They’ll get their money back, many times over, when that government tender comes through.
Use this formula for Sonko Rescue, Education reforms, #Lipakamatender, Sid Chatterjee’s UHC campaign, and you get the same characters.
And that, in a nutshell, is what we call theory. It’s not that hard, is it?