Monday, 25 May 2009

The Capitalism of Communism

Kenya is a capitalist country, according to the definition of capitalism, and according to what I was taught in my primary education. The ideal definition of this is that Kenya is a country with equal opportunities; a country where everyone is offered a minimal quality education common to all. From here, everyone has a freedom to undertake any career/business, without government intervention or restriction within legal limits. The government does not restrict flow of capital and labour, and access to resources is open to the highest bidder or those willing and able.

This is contrary to communism, or its softer cousin called socialism.Under this system, the government aims at maintaining equal supply of goods and services and to maintain equal access for all. As such, the socialist system controls the number of professionals in all fields and the amount of labour involved in production of goods. it is also supposed to maintain the amount of goods produced, ideally.

The above economic systems have however been overrun and changed to an individualistic capitalism one, especially when it comes to the communism system. We are therefore left with the communism having a political system and a capitalist economic system.Most countries in the world now run an implementation of the capitalist economic system. How they implement their economic systems via political control is what leads us to determine whether a country is capitalist or communist.After all, don't people clamor for political power in order to control the flow of wealth and money in the economy?

With such implementation of communism, where the economy is open to all in a capitalist way, questions emerge as to the usefulness of a communist political system? After all, isn't the whole system meant to be either communist or capitalist? Truth be told, the capitalism system also has some elements of communisms when it comes to free flow of wealth and control of businesses.

The above mix-ups are as a result of man been individualistic. Man is neither communistic nor capitalist. Those two terms are politically coined , more as propaganda rather than any sort of classification. As we have said, man is individualistic and tends to think of them self, and how to benefit themselves.

The capitalist system is a system which is honest about individualism, and allows everyone to be individualistic(ideally). the communist system on the other hand, is a dishonest system. I call it so, because after careful evaluation, you will find that the communist system is an invite only form of capitalism.

A few examples, the former Russian president, Vladimir Putin was succeeded, by someone he favored, who then appointed him prime minister. In China, the government is in one way an organ of the Communist party of China, and is selected by the members of the executive committee of he communist party. To get to the executive committee, you are voted in by other smaller committees as you rise up the ranks.Therefore, the 1 billion Chinese do not have a say in the government, since they only vote at the root level. those who they vote in keep voting each other into smaller and smaller committees till they get to the executive .Of course the more powerful committees have control over who joins them, resulting into an invite only form of capitalism.(You can read more about this on Wikipedia).

Of course the communist system is plagued by the same problems of corruption and scandals that plague capitalist countries, but controls in communists countries tend to be much stricter(They are stricter because for you to take part in such deals , you must have been invited ). This is due to the individualistic nature of man. In the end, all such systems are similar, and what matters is how individualistic the leaders of the country are. The more individualistic, the more communistic the system becomes. And that is the capitalism of communism.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Milking The Taxpayer; who is Outdoing Kenya?

Our politicians are the biggest problem in Kenya, and they need to change in order for Kenya to develop. Liar!Politicians are no problem. the problem is the people of Kenya, who a few end up becoming the politicians that we so much hate upon. Most of my friends and other fellow Kenyans usually tell me how they would pocket tax payers money were they given this chance. After all, the money is not theirs, but everyone's. Therefore nobody cares how you spend it. That is why our government is so corruption riddled.

Before you start celebrating and toasting to this fact, be aware that competition is very high, and very many other governments are trying to outdo each other in the race to who gets the most of the tax payers cut. From anti-corruption crusaders (United Kingdom) to stricter communist governments(We will still discuss the communists versus the capitalists in a coming soon post). Nevertheless, we still seem to be performing averagely in these sectors.According to the Global Integrity ranking, we have slipped down 4 positions in the world integrity ranking in 2008. We need to pull up our socks in this sector. Ghana slipped down 11 positions from 2006 while Ethiopia slipped down 22 positions in the same period. That is according to www.globalintegrity.org.

When it comes to other corruption stories, and stories to do with the government, Sri Lanka is a global leader in such matters. If you thought that 42 ministers were 20 too many, you haven't heard about Sri Lanka's almost 90 ministers. While you are busy complaining about Kenyan ministers becoming millionaires in a few years, the Sri Lankan's outdid them by becoming millionaires in a 4 month window. The Sri Lankan Police force is so corrupt that the Kenyan Police will look like angels in the country. If you want to be commercially successful in the country , all you need to do is bankroll the police to criminalize your competitors. It is said that this is already happening, with towns where local businessmen practice the above. All this is according to a 2005 report in lankan newspapers.

Moving on to Zimbabwe, it seems to be copying Kenya in so many ways, and outdoing us in all of them. the similarities between the 2 countries is just too much. Like Kenya, the country got independence after a guerilla warfare, only for the independence hero to lead the country in robbing of the taxpayer, just like ours did. Nevertheless, we still tout them as heroes, and history teaches us how they sacrificed a lot and went out of the way to help their countries. In Kenya, history luckily forgets to mention how the hero turned upon the real freedom fighters and continued persecuting them.Zimbabwe after independence, like Kenya, started off with a very vibrant economy that had a growth rate that was quite high. Now, like Kenya, it just remains as a reference in history books and the Zimbabweans are now are writing their way down the history books of records with their record inflation. Some of the corruption headlines in the country include Air Zimbabwe's purchase of some Chinese Aircraft that are undergoing repairs just after they were bought. Remember that story of the Kenyan Police choppers? Well, if i were you, i would avoid Air Zimbabwe like the plague. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority(ZESA), just like the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, was a loss making monopoly. You have to work quite hard to make such a monopoly make losses (yeah, you have to work, if you don't, it will make a profit). If you are interested in how ZESA made losses, you can ask Robert Mugabe's son, who was the head until he voluntarily resigned recently. Then there is the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company, (ZUPCO) which is a public corporation that insists on driving empty buses rather than lowering fares,but the rich taxpayer will still fund the empty buses at the end of the day. I will stop been biased by favoring the Zimbabweans , and now move to the Latin American presidents.

To start us off, the Nicaraguan former president, Arnoldo Aleman, is currently serving a 20 year term, for embezzlement in his 5 year term ending 2002. His former Argentinian counterpart, Carlos Menem, who ruled till 1999 is under house arrest for smuggling arms to Ecuador and Croatia .Alfonso Portillo from Guatemala was extradited from Mexico , where he had ran away after funneling public army funds to personal and friends accounts. there are even more stories from Latin America available here.In short, it seems that unlike this part of the world, corruption is quite a risky business in Latin America.

Most of us personally envy the position that politicians hold, which gives them access to this rich persons money. the rich person, a la the tax payer never runs out of cash, no wonder how bad the economy is. So I urge you to work quite hard to get his fair share of money.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Nightmare that is Nairobi Roads

Traveling in this country of ours, which we keep been reminded of its beauty, is a night mare. For clarity purposes, I am talking about traveling during the day, and not night, when I mention night mare. Traveling in the night on our highways especially in some parts of the country is just an easy way of getting mugged. The nightmare I am talking about is caused by bad roads, and endemic traffic jams about the city center.

About the bad roads, well you all know about the percentage of tarmacked roads in Kenya(more info available here). As for the tarmacked roads, well they aren't as smooth as they are shown to be on their blue prints. Most are riddled with pot holes which appear as soon as the contractor has tarmacked the next few kilometers ahead. Other defects include sections that are outdone by earth roads in their ability to withstand been washed away by the next moderate rain fall.There is also that issue of unmarked bumps- small hills put on the road and which we are led to believe are meant to slow down speeding drivers rather than give drivers nasty surprises/bumps.

Coming to the capital city, the problem becomes compounded by a prominent characteristic of this city known as traffic jams. Traffic jams in the city can stretch for several kilometers, and will occur at any time of the day, irrespective of whether or not it is rush hour.Thika Road, Mombasa Road and Jogoo Road are a few of the most affected roads, with jams occurring as early as 6.a.m. and Jogoo Road been notorious for gridlocks that stretch past 9.00 p.m.

This jams are as a result of the so called chaotic planning and construction of roads.Roundabouts end up been the major culprit, due to the fact that many Kenyan drivers will meet at a a roundabout and try to race each other out of it. There is also the curious case of T-junctions, an example been the one at the junction of Muranga road and Juja road.

Well, enough blame on the roundabouts. Despite there presence(instead of fly overs), I think that we should be doing well in terms of traffic flow. This is despite the delay they bring. Sadly, this is not the case. Kenyans in general have very strange habits on the road. Kenyans are born with a strong belief that they are the only ones in a hurry to get to their destinations, and that they therefore require the highest priority on a road. As a result, they disregard all other drivers and engage in manouvres that a firefighters truck would never dare.

Such manouvres include squeezing in between vehicles to the extent that a 2 lane road will fit 4 vehicles across. Of course there is the other idiot who drives off the road and and onto the shoulders. Where the shoulders end or are obstructed , the idiot tries bullying their way back into the road again. The rest of the traffic has to slow down in order to accommodate such idiots. The worst moment is when they graze other vehicles as they try another squeeze-in. They then stop to argue with the other driver over who is to pay for the body work scratches,the broken lights ,dented body work and other results of their effort. We wonder why they don't carry a wand of cash, and just pay up when they cause damage then simply continue in their hurry. This idiots usually reduce the rest of the traffic to using half a lane of road they leave as they argue, waiting for the police to come determine who is in the wrong. Now if a number of idiots are engaged in such disputes on a less-than-2-km stretch during rush hour, traffic grinds to a halt as we squeeze beside their cheap(ironically most of this VIP idiots drive cheap cars)cars at the crash scenes . I think that hefty fines should accompany those found to have caused such accidents.

When it comes to roundabouts and junctions, all drivers usually assume that their section has a right of way over all other sections that meet in such junctions. In some areas, drivers even disregard traffic lights; perhaps they confuse them for advertisements. Well the result is quite clear, a vehicle, vehicle A will block one road as it waits for another vehicle, vehicle B to clear from where it is headed to , and the vehicle B in turn waits for the road blocked by the first vehicle, vehicle A to clear .A process referred to as a circular-wait occurs. the result is many vehicles coming into a junction and very few leaving it, and in a short while, a traffic gridlock occurs.

We also have a class of people known as Very Idiotic Persons (VIPs), who police believe that they enjoy a constitutional right to drive along stretches of roads devoid of any other traffic. As such, when such an idiotic person is coming from the airport to see off his friend, the police have to clear major highways of all living and non living objects. When this occurs roads such as Uhuru Highway/Mombasa road,traffic and all living objects are held up. they continue piling up and fill all other roundabouts, junctions and other spaces as they join roads that no vehicle exists from.On such days, an orchestra of stupid Kenyans known as hooters can be heard for several kilometers round the city center.Also, on such days, the city achieves a 24 hour status as pedestrians and motorist arrive at their destination at hours around midnight.

As for the hooters, we will continue researching what faulty chemical reaction takes place in their brains to such an extent that they are convinced that persistent hooting will clear traffic ahead of them. Unfortunately.the cure for this condition does not exist at the moment. We hope that police and the City Council are working quite hard to discover it.

We also hope that the police reforms will touch on the traffic department(yeah, they too blocked traffic from coming into the city after the disputed election) such that idiotic drivers will be charged heftily for their idiocy. We also hope that budget reforms will spend more on improving roads to make them less nightmarish. Least of all, we hope that the VIPs will adopt less disruptive forms of road behavior, or rather get other safer means(not the ones that they fraudulently purchase). We hereby wish that you will soon enjoy nightmare free traveling soon.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The 100% predictable floods of Budalangi!

I was listening to 2 presenters arguing on radio, as they are employed to do nowadays. (the radio stations have figured that we have a lot of music at home and very few arguments, and therefore we look forward to hearing less of music and more of arguing in their stations). The presenters were talking about how we need to help people displaced by perennial floods in Budalangi.

It got me wondering about Budalangi, and its perennial floods. After a few seconds of thoughts, I was quite bewildered. What puzzled me, is that the floods are a predictable event. Matter of fact, by December, we will be blessed with floods at the same place. So if the floods are predictable, how come that there are people who are affected all the time? The floods occur due to the river bursting banks. So for people to be affected every time, the river must expand every time it floods to areas it has never flooded before. The alternative is that the victims move back to their homes every time the floods subside. Given that option one is not possible; I will go with the second one.

It is therefore surprising, that people live and occupy a rivers flood plain, and cross their fingers that the floods will not come calling. This is quite strange. Who don’t this people look for alternative accommodation which is not flood prone? Somebody who hails from the constituency says that land attachment and traditions are to blame. Apparently, people believe that they have a right to won land, such a fundamental one, that they are willing to die to own land. To them, it is better to be dead land owner than a living landless person.

That is OK with me. But can't this people change their living habits to fit the flooding of the river, rather than hope that the river will stop flooding one day. Wouldn’t it be quite easy for the people to live in villages, or towns, in areas where it doesn’t flood and only farm in the flood prone areas? This way, they would still own their land, but would only farm on it and not live on it, such that only their crops were prone to flooding.

As far as the capitalist government advocates for free land policy, shouldn’t it come up with a policy that controls occupation of such land? Well, if this was communist (which I think is an invite only form of capitalist government as I will discuss in posts to come) china, the government would have long forced this people out of this self-made “disaster” and reallocated them to safer areas. I call it a self made disaster because of its 100% predictability rate!

Someone flood some reasonable help to this people of Budalangi!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Badly Made In China

One day, several years ago, before Kenyans made head hunting a political past time, I helped a so called friend of mine with my Motorola phone charger. My so called friend then left the phone charging at a certain location. One of the more than 3.3 million thieves in the country could not believe his luck, having come across an unguarded phone complete with its charger. The rest is history.


Since I did not have a charger, I decided to look for a replacement, and I came across one pretty soon from a phone repair shop. This second hand charger served me well till early this year, when my mismanagement finally caught up with it, and it failed.


Again I hit the road to source for a replacement. Little did I know that it would be a hard path now trodden by many.


Chargers had dropped prices and I could obtain one for about 100 shillings. The sellers tested the chargers at the point of sale, and they did work. The sellers also told me that they do not offer warranties on such electronics, since they have no say no how much voltage the Kenya Power and Lighting Company decides to supply to the charger.


The first charger l bought lasted for a couple of days. I presented my bitter complaints to the seller, but he listened sympathetically, and then proceeded to show me a box of several other chargers that had lasted for 2 days too. Just then, my friend walked in with another 2 day charger. We then formed a 3 man committee (since no woman turned up with a 2 day charger, we couldn’t include them) which investigated the chargers. After an hour or serious deliberation, the committee recommended the 'made in China’ was to blame for the 50 shilling a day charger.


Just after the committee completed its work, one of the committee members turned up complaining that his fairly new high capacity hard disk had stopped working too. We hurriedly convened a 2 man committee to look into the matter. The committee noticed that the hard disk was physically identical to another one of my friend, which decided that its warranty period was too long a period for it to operate. The committee also noted that the hard disks were identical, yet from different manufacturers. The stickers were identical except for the part that shows the manufacturer. The committee finally concluded that the 'made in China’ designation was again to blame.


The committee extended its mandate to investigate other ‘made in china’ items. Below are the findings of this committee.

  • Several items were found to be made by a sixth of the world’s population, in China.

  • That several of the items were cheap enough for unemployed youth (those who are yet to be recruited by vigilante groups and others) and lowly paid Kenyans to afford.

  • That several of the above goods claimed to be from different manufacturers per category (computer mice, ear phones, chargers etc) but were entirely identical.

  • That the goods lacked major components found in the original devices.

  • That the goods were unlikely to last till your next Birthday.

  • That the goods did not meet any standard specifications, neither had they been inspected by any quality body.

  • That the original goods, or their spares, were quite hard to find. If you were lucky enough to find them, their price was way above what such goods cost in developed markets like the USA. For example the charger mentioned above was going for 600 shillings in the one shop that it could be found in!

The committee concluded that given the size of china, it’s hard for its government to monitor the quality of its goods, and they will continue to be badly made in China. Given that Kenyans like outdoing each other on how cheaply they can obtain goods, such badly made goods will continue having a big market in the country. This is compounded by the fact that the sellers of the genuine goods sell them at a premium, lowering their demand, resulting in only a few outlets stocking them. There has also been emergence of high quality counterfeits, which sell at prices higher than the other badly made products. Such high quality counterfeits are sold in several outlets, due to the shortage of the genuine products.


Therefore next time you are buying a badly made product, or even a high quality counterfeit, be prepared to forego the guarantee of the genuine product.

Do not blame the Chinese government for its failure to well monitor 18% of the worlds population output. That’s a tall order; given the problem African countries have in monitoring even less than 1% of the world’s population.

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Friday, 8 May 2009

Education key to success?

Every time school re-opens, I hear many people advising students to study hard because life is hard out here. They go ahead to show how education has bettered some peoples lives, occasionally giving doctors (academic) and professors as good examples.

I have no objection to the above, but sadly, that is what I call missing the point by a mile. Contrary to the saying that Education is the key to success, it is not. If you took a student to school, and the student put in a lot of hard work in their studies, they will not be necessarily successful. They may even be a failure, and a big one at that.

Consider the people that you consider as failures in your life. How many of them have undergone a decent education? Well, you may come up with the very educated excuse that the person dropped out at a certain level. Even if they did, didn’t they go through education? And what gives you the impression that they did not study hard?

Nevertheless, lets raise the bar and state that the more education that you get, the more the success you achieve. At this moment, lets take a break from this ice cold discussion. Think of your nation, your government, the economy and any other aspects in our quite exciting lives. Think of the failures amongst them. Take a further moment to study the people running the failures, and their colourful backgrounds. How colourful is their education background? Most people claim that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe leadership is a failure. Now Robert Mugabe is a highly educated man, i gave up perusing his academic qualifications when I reached the 6th degree awarded to this Doctor. Closer home, with the government been touted as a failure, I could not resist the offer to go witch hunting. After less than quarter an hour of moderate witch hunting in the Kenyan government, I found the internal security ministry, half the health ministry (I am not able to tell which half of the ministry is which since it was spilt into 2) as examples of unsuccessful situations headed by highly educated individuals. With stricter witch hunting, you will be successful enough in picking up more highly educated witches that have contributed successfully to the failure that is the government. There is also that peculiar case of one institution of Higher learning that had differences pitting a bunch of highly educated leaders of the university against students under taking higher education in the same institution. The result of this was that several buildings at Kenyatta University undergoing internal combustion and going up in flames; they could not stand the heat. (This blog contains more articles about this issue in its archives).

Enough about the failures of highly educated individuals. Lets take a brief look at the success of a few individuals that dropped out of the education level, or were poorly educated. In your home area, take a brief look at well performing businesses. You may even consider some in the country or world wide. Then take a look at their owners (not the highly educated managers). Now take a look at the education level of the owners. In Kenya, you may consider Njenga Karume or the more famous James Mwangi of Equity Bank (sorry if i didn’t pick someone from your community, you may add them in the comments section below this post). How highly educated are they? Bill Gates, one of the worlds most famous billionaires did not need a lot of education to steer Microsoft to the success that it is. Mark Zuckerbug, the twenty-something year old behind Facebook had to drop out of a higher learning institution (the prestigious Harvard) to steer his company to the success it is today.

From this discussion, it is evident that some amount of Education is necessary for success, but clearly, Education is not the key to success. So, what is the key to success?

Intelligence is the answer, people. I hope you are intelligent enough to figure out how intelligence fits in this equation. I hope that you are even more intelligent to be successful, and intelligent to hire highly educated folks to steer you to higher success.

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