I have always felt for Kenya. That is what has informed my involvement in our country’s trials and triumphs. It is the reason I am seeking to be president this year.
So many things have gone wrong in our country. Yet so many opportunities exist to turn them round. I want to put Kenya on the march again.
The idea of justice being our shield and defender, living in unity, peace and liberty, feeding, clothing and housing every one, have become mirages in the last 50 years. We are one of the most unequal societies in the world.
Today, about three million Kenyans aged between 15 and 29 years are in low quality, vulnerable jobs that pay almost nothing. One million have no jobs at all. Close to two million do not even look for a job. They gave up.
Young Kenyans are dynamic, talented, and full of entrepreneurship. But a vast majority of them are denied a chance to put their most active and productive years to the full service of our country and to fulfill their dreams. I want to make sure that every young Kenyan has a chance to enjoy decent life.
I want to make sure the country creates a million good jobs annually so that we can employ the 800,000 young Kenyans joining the labour market.
I want to make sure that all young Kenyans have adequate nutrition in their early childhood, enjoy good health, and receive quality education. With this, they will build human capital, which will make them attractive to prospective employers.
I will institute cash transfer for all mothers in need of help for the first 1,000 days, on condition that they look after the child well. I want to ensure remedial education for pupils lagging behind.
Let’s recognise that most of the worst performing schools have Kenya’s poorest parents and a majority of Kenya’s children. I will extend help to such schools and raise the quality of learning by ensuring better and more committed teachers implementing a relevant curriculum.
On this, I will call on our youth for I intend to create the “Kenyan Peace Corps”. I will be asking young Kenyans waiting to enter university or looking for jobs after graduating to teach in primary schools throughout the country. This will also encourage social cohesion and create jobs.
Our Constitution demands health, education and access to jobs as basic rights. It also contains far-reaching reforms that will address the political and governance obstacles that hinder our economic growth.
Kenyans can count on me and my team to implement the Constitution. I embrace the Kenya Vision 2030. But we are running behind with it. I am also concerned that it does not mention climate change, the menace that will create havoc to our lives and economy. Kenyans can count on me and my team to produce “Vision 2030 Plus” to make certain that Kenya becomes a middle-income country by 2030.
I strongly believe in empowering every part of our country. Nothing trickled down. The time has come for us to help all regions stand on their own.
On assuming office, I will launch the “One Village One Product” programme which will be predicated on the fact that each village in Kenya has unique products. Through value-addition, we shall have villagers market these products locally and abroad.
This will spread wealth and create jobs all around the country. In the last five years, I have laid the ground for the creation of manufacturing industries. We have ample skilled labour. Kenya is a hub of East Africa, and a gateway to the whole continent.
With iron ore available, there is no reason for Kenya not to embark on manufacturing steel. The key to unleashing our potential is energy which we must make cheaper, cleaner and reliable.
In my discussions with investors locally and abroad, I have single-mindedly focused on expansion of our energy base and development of renewable energy sources of geothermal, solar and wind. The huge involvement of France, Germany, Japan, European Union, United States, Spain, Belgium, China, India, Korea and others in funding geothermal, wind, hydro and coal power development is largely a result of my intense lobbying.
With my personal intervention, we overcame the objection of the World Bank, and got the 300 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power project going. I want to be President to ensure energy sufficiency and industrial take-off in Kenya.
Among all the presidential candidates, I am in the best position to stand shoulder to shoulder with top global leaders, sit with them one on one, and reach agreement on strategic political and economic issues for the benefit of Africans and Kenyans.
Energy will also be critical to powering the industries that we must roll out in the Special Economic Zones slated for Lamu, Mombasa and Kisumu. We will extend similar centres to other regional towns like Kakamega, Garissa, Nyeri, Eldoret and Meru.
My plan to restructure the Youth Empowerment Fund and the Women’s Enterprise Fund is a sure path to success. I plan to equip youth and women with business skills then provide them with start-up grants, followed by loans at favourable rates.
I am a believer in the private sector as the driver of our economy. I have dedicated my tenure in office to regular round table meetings between the private sector and the government so we can listen to each other and agree on the way forward.
As the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) itself has confirmed, thanks to the round tables, it now takes 33 days to start a business compared with 60 days in 2004.
The cost of starting a business fell from 52 of per-capita income to 38 per cent, and the time needed to export goods reduced from 45 days in 2006 to 26 days currently. I want to build on these gains.
I intend to deepen investment in infrastructure with focus on roads, rail, mobile telephony, energy and ICT. I want to expand investment in food security through irrigated agriculture, subsidies for farmers and research.
I want to expand poverty reduction measures and make our health care work for the poor and the rich alike. I will push vigorously for the establishment of a national health insurance scheme.
A thorough reform of the public service will be inevitable if we are to achieve all these, and I will do it.
Don’t worry where the money will come from. Kenya has money. I will cut wasteful government spending; expand the revenue base by closing loopholes and lowering tax rates. I intend to encourage much more efficient use of donor money. Today, about a third of donor money is currently not utilised.
As President, Kenyans can count on me. I want to provide leadership for our country.
Mr Odinga is the Cord alliance presidential candidate