[kictanet] A small axe to the Safaricom IPO]
alice at apc.org
Tue Aug 28 22:28:04 EAT 2007
A small axe to the Safaricom IPO
By L. MUTHONI WANYEKI
I am not the daughter of a Big Man. Neither am I married to a Big
Man or even to the son of a Big Man.
I had the good fortune to have essentially middle-class parents who
worked hard to give my siblings and me a good basic education. And I
had the good fortune to have a mother whose citizenship made it
possible for me to attend university, courtesy of the student loans
system of her country.
The student loans covered fees and accommodation. But my parents
couldn't afford to send us much money getting $100 on birthdays and
at Christmas was like getting a windfall. So I worked to supplement
the student loans, from the time I left Kenya at the age of 16.
Of course, I now recognise that, despite not being associated with a
big man's family, in comparison with the majority of people in Kenya,
I am not only fortunate, I am actually extremely privileged.
But, despite that recognition, having worked since the age of 16, I
also know the value of my money. I have worked for what I have. This
is why, for instance, I get apoplectic with rage about corruption.
Under Kenya's ridiculously constructed tax brackets, I fall into the
same top tax bracket as Kenya's Big Men. And I get nothing for it,
having to pay privately for everythingincluding security where I
live and medical insurance. But, my privileges taken into account, I
certainly wouldn't mind paying the amounts of tax that I do pay if I
felt the money went to help those with fewer privileges, not to pay
the obscene salaries of those who cannot be bothered to assure the
House of a quorum sufficient to pass even 10 Bills a year or to
build the "bigness" of the Big Men.
The other night, some friends and I calculated the share of
Safaricom's reported Ksh17 billion ($253.7 million) profit that would
have gone to Mobitelea the company that, according to the Public
Investments Committee, is irregularly in possession of no less than
five per cent of the mobile phone company's shares, meaning that
there are apparently no records of Mobitelea having paid for that
MEANING THAT MY TAX MONEY, which went into building and sustaining
Telkom and Safaricom, was essentially given away. Meaning that,
coming back to our calculation, the alleged owners of Mobitelea the
son of a Big Man and the son-in-law of another Big Man under the
former regime and a Big Man in this regime earned themselves no
less than Ksh850,000,000 ($12.6 million) last year alone. From doing
nothing at all, except live off the profits of having stolen from us.
Ksh850 million off my back (and your's as well). Again, I am
incapacitated with rage.
And yet, the Treasury insists that Safaricom's initial public offer
will proceed, regardless of the outcomes of the PIC debate within the
House or any court cases that might ensue.
FRANKLY, DESPITE OUR NEWFOUND fascination with IPOs, I don't think a
single one of us should put a single shilling forward. Those of us
who do work hard and honestly deserve better. If shares in Safaricom
could essentially be given away to Big Men, their sons and sons-in
laws, then they can be given away to us. Why should we pay for them?
They're our property in the first place, which the government was
meant to hold in trust for us. If it breached that trust for three of
us, then it should share the love with all of us.
It might not seem like it, but there are, in fact, victims of
corruption. Those victims are you and me every single Kenyan who
dutifully pays his or her taxes. I'm furious. I'm ready for a tax
boycott the residential associations led the way and it's time to
scale up their efforts. We need to say to hell with that IPO until
the issues raised by the PIC have been satisfactorily dealt with. We
need to be the "small axes" that Robert Nestor Marley talked about
and cut down all those "big trees."
L. Muthoni Wanyeki is a political scientist based in Nairobi
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