Is It Time for Uhuru to Drop the Big Four Agenda?
By Sudi Baraka
It took me a while to read Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda. Not that I was lazy, I just lacked interest. I have finally managed to read the plan, at least its major goals. I am glad I have read it because I now understand why Rome wasn’t built in a day- it lacked an Uhuru Kenyatta, the second term Uhuru, not the first term one.
In less than five years Uhuru plans, through his Big Four Agenda, to make Kenya a shining city upon a hill, to be admired and emulated by the rest of Africa, nay, the whole world. 1.3 million manufacturing jobs, 100% universal health coverage, 500,000 affordable homes, 2 million bags of maize per year etc etc. Can Uhuru achieve all these? A big no.
Given the audacity of these goals, there is no denying that Uhuru wants his Big Four Agenda to be Kenya’s version of “We choose to go to the moon”- an audacious goal that draws a country’s energy and resources towards its achievement. The only problem is that few people seem to understand what these Uhuru plans are, and even fewer are enthused by them. Apart from a few hardcore Uhuru fans, it is almost taken for granted that the Big Four Agenda is going to be one massive failure, more like Moi’s Nyayo Pioneer grandiose monstrosities than Kennedy’s Moon shot.
Why is there so little public confidence in the value of the Big Four Agenda, or Uhuru’s ability to successfully implement them? Is he anti-Midas touch? I doubt. He is after all the man who married Margaret Kenyatta! He has also proven himself to be a competent and effective campaigner and politician.
In my view, the lack of public confidence in the usefulness of the Big Four agenda or Uhuru’s ability to achieve most, if not all, of the projects in the plan is borne out of bitter memories of Uhuru’s failed ego-driven first term edifices. In his first term, his top-down ‘transformative agenda’ managed to capture the hearts of millions of Kenyans, including some in opposition areas. However, by the end of the term, it was clear that most of these mega projects and other items in his ‘transformative agenda’ were mere snake oil.
The Big Four agenda program follows the same approach that some of Uhuru’s first term mega failures followed. Take the example of food security item. Uhuru, as envisioned in Big Four agenda, plans to make Kenya food secure by 2022 through growing maize in 52,000 acres of government land and a further 70,000 acres in public-private initiative. The goal is to produce 2 million bags of maize annually. Sounds familiar? It is definitely familiar because this is just another version of Galana-Kulalu Scheme! With Sh. 7.3 billion investment and 10,000 acres, the scheme managed to produce a paltry 22,000 bags of maize. A farmer in Uasin Gishu or Trans Nzoia would need less than 500 acres to produce a similar number of bags.
The more you look at it the more it seems like the Big Four agenda is Galana-Kulalu’s answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Having watched as billions were wasted on such schemes as part of Uhuru’s ‘transformative’ agenda, it is no accident that there is little appetite for Uhuru’s Big Four agenda. Many have correctly discerned that it is mere old wine in new skins. It will benefit no one except corrupt government functionaries.
What the Big Four Agenda achieves is to lay bare the main problem that has placed Uhuru’s term in office on the path of monumental failure- inability to learn from his mistakes. It was said of the Bourbon monarchs that ruled France after Napoleon that they remembered everything and learnt nothing and that is why they kept making mistake upon mistake. So is Uhuru.
It is disheartening that after the massive failure of Galana-Kulalu scheme, Uhuru has no problem using billions of taxpayers’ money to start similar schemes again! Successful governments are smart enough to try out new ideas and if they don’t work, they show even greater smartness by discarding them and trying others. Not so for Uhuru’s government. Like an Old Testament prophet, Uhuru behaves like he has received some divine revelation. Even when his ideas have been proven to be completely wrong, he has clung to them with disappointing tenacity.
Why is he planning to borrow more Eurobonds after the first one was wasted? Why borrow billions more money to expand SGR when the current one has been shown to be a white elephant? And why embark on more than a trillion worth of Big Four projects when it has been shown time and time again that corruption and other government inefficiencies make government the worst candidate to spearhead such programs?
Sometimes governments provide solutions to people’s problems; other times they become the problem. If Uhuru’s goes on with his Big Four agenda, the government will become Kenya’s biggest problem. By increasing tax burden and adding a mountain of debt to our economy to finance his white elephants, Uhuru will leave Kenyans in such a deep financial hole that it will take many generations to dig this country out of it. I don’t believe that that is the legacy that he is puffing and panting after. There are many problems that he can solve without resorting to grandiose and money-wasting schemes. After all, not all problems are solved by throwing money at them. If Uhuru is serious about leaving a positive legacy, he should first drop this Big Four agenda.