Forget about the Media Bill, put aside the rickety state of the economy, disregard all the broken political promises made in the last year. Things are about to get much worse.
An innocuously-headlined article in Business Daily Africa carries the revelation that the government, in its wisdom, has settled on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) the best option in its quest for foreign investment, a key aim of the increasingly risible Vision 2030 blueprint. Translation: they are going to sell off our remaining assets to foreign companies and plunge us into such debt that the grandchildren of our great-grandchildren will be cursing our names.
PPP, also known as Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is beloved by governments and their commercial “partners” alike. The private companies get to show their caring sides by investing in capital-heavy projects such as roads, schools and hospitals while still being able to turn a profit. Governments, on the other hand, love PPP because it keeps the cost of these projects off the national balance sheet and makes the national debt look lower.
Essentially, the way it works is that a private company will take on the initial cost of a project and the government will then lease back facilities or begin repaying the costs. If you look at it that way, it should be quite simple and it looks like a good deal for both sides. But it is not quite as simple, and things can go wrong. For a look at this all you need to do is examine what has happened to Dar es Salaam’s water supply, or simply Google UK news results for “PFI failure.”
This is not to damn all PPP projects out of hand; the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization are both PPPs and do sterling work. But do Kenyan politicians really have such lofty ideals? Can you imagine that with the tons of money swirling around, none of them will take an “advisory” position with one of the contracted companies or offer to carry out some very lucrative “consultancy” work? Will the rules drawn up for the awarding of contracts stand close scrutiny? I don’t mean to be a cynic, but I’m opening a sweepstake on the first “PPP Scandal” as soon as the process is underway.
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