Macharia Waithira writes….
You must have seen the guy evacuating ugali in Hurlingham. It has been all over Facebook. It has possibly helped us escape the realities of the times. This picture of a man evacuating the staple of many Kenyan homes to safety has probably been the kind of circus that offers a collective psycho-social escape to the realities that like a galaxy flying across space 30,000 kilometres per second, the Jubilee government is marching us down the abyss with speeds above mach two.
But what is in a picture? The wise of yore would say it is worth a thousand words. This is quite a conservative figure. The reality of the man evacuating ugali is a reality that shows the challenges of the Kenyan version of capitalism. Let me break down the concept capitalism. To a lay man, it is a system where society exploits the givens of nature by letting production be determined at the individual level with the market determining the prices.
While Kenya exhibits characteristics close to such, what we have as capitalism is CRONY CAPITALISM and CAPITALISM BY PROXY where in the first instance, the cronies of those in power get rich by having access to hyper-inflated tenders and public resources and in the second instance, the nearness to power determines accumulation of wealth.
So Where are We? Let me break down the statistics (I am using data from December 2017)
According to a report by Oxfam, the gap between the richest and poorest has reached extreme levels in Kenya. Less than 0.1% of the population (8,300 people) own more wealth than the bottom 99.9% (more than 44 million people). The richest 10% of people in Kenya earned on average 23 times more than the poorest 10%.
On the other hand, the number of super-rich in Kenya is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is predicted that the number of millionaires will grow by 80% over the next 10 years, with 7,500 new millionaires set to be created.
Unequal access to opportunities, such as healthcare and education, is rife. Nearly one million primary school-aged children are still out-of-school – the ninth highest number of any country in the world. Kenya’s level of spending for education has gradually fallen each year since the early 2000s. To add salt to an already sour wound, the government spends only 6% of its budget on health. A quarter of the Kenyan population regularly lack access to healthcare. A recent study estimated that nearly 2.6 million people fall into poverty or remain poor due to ill health each year.
So what cumulatively happens is that we have been slowly by slowly pushing the lower class into further desperation. Rather than have a nation with three distinct classes; the lower, middle and upper classes, what we have is a bloated underclass (those living the dog life like the Ugali Man) an equally bloated lower class (whose upper layer mistakenly assumes it is the Middle Class), a shrinking middle class and a 1% upper class comprised of thieves of state resources.
Via Macharia Wathira