Kutuny and the like questioning the Prime Minister’s travel expenses are disingenuous because they are doing this simply for cheap publicity gained from smearing the PM and not because they care about “extravagant” expenditure of public funds. If I were the PM, I would not even answer these types of questions but would rather have these MPs direct their questions to the appropriate offices that coordinate the PM’s travels. I realize and appreciate we are into the new political dispensation in the country but a line of discipline must be maintained at all levels, especially for the presidency and the PM’s office such which must be held in high respect and dignity. Subjecting the PM to questions of this type in my view is uncalled for and inappropriate.
To be sure, the public does have the right to know how the government generally spends its money but there are certain genuine government expenditures that only need to be queried and MPs advised privately if they have to just because by their nature it’s almost impossible to explain to the general public in a manner they would appreciate its rationale and appropriateness. Which hotel and how much is paid for the PM to stay is one of them.
However, as to the question of whether or not expenditure for such stay is “extravagant” or not, no member of parliament has credibility to speak to this question when they are paid and accept the insane salaries and benefits compared to the rest of the world, especially more so those who have nothing to show for what they have accomplished as MPs other than running their mouths or otherwise self-engaged in publicity seeking antics.
If these publicity seeking MPs must know where and how much the PM spends on his official travels, the right and only question they should ask is whether the PM’s official travel and accommodation expenditure is commensurate with that spent by someone holding an office comparable to his in other comparable countries and if the answer is “yes” as is of course the case with the PM’s official travels here, then the inquiry should and must end there and there because it would be demeaning of the office itself to demand that its holder stay in some dingy cheap hotel just so he does not appear to be “extravagant” if he stays in precisely the same place other comparable office holders stay.
On the other hand, the government has the responsibility to spend public money wisely. When Kalonzo Musyoka engages in the so called lobbying efforts on a mission with clearly no public interest and only for the ill-conceived benefit of a handful of PEV suspects, expenditure of public funds for such trips is completely inappropriate and the public has the right to be outraged and demand answers and accountability.
In contrast, all of the PM’s official travels have been singly and collectively in the public interest as he has either represented and continues to represent our country in important international meetings and conferences in which we must have representation at the PM or presidential level or he has and continues to seek and bring home the beacon, so to speak.
In business, there is a maxim in order to make money, you have to spend money. In government, the government must do the same thing if it has to bring about any prosperity for its people; in order to bring economic prosperity, including attracting investment, the government must spend money and as in business, the question is not how much is spent rather whether how much is spent is worth it, given the gains or minuses.
By this measure which is the only measure that should matter, the PM’s trips are well worth beyond the money spent such that if the PM were to be entitled to monetary bonus payment, his bonus would be right up there comparable to the best among the best of C.E.O.s of private companies.
Regarding specific expenditures on the PM’s hotel accommodation, like any other foreign leader, the PM’s foreign travel and accommodation is carefully planned both by the Kenya government and the country to be visited, taking into consideration a number of factors, including security and protocol.
When the PM travels to the United States, for example, he can only but stay in certain places of accommodation approved by the Secret Service which is responsible and takes over his security upon arrival in the United States.
The PM does not chose where he stays and neither does he negotiate how much he pays for his stay; this is the responsibility of those charged with planning his trips but staying at the Waldorf or in its presidential suite is nothing uncommon for visiting prime ministers and presidents in New York; that’s the preferred place of stay for the reasons stated above.
The PM cannot stay in some backstreet hotel and expect to conduct business there with government and/or business leaders staying at the Waldorf suites and that’s even assuming the Secret Service allows him to stay there, which they cannot. You are in Rome, you do as the Romans do; in order to project the right image and gain the confidence of those you expect to deal with, you had better conform to their expectation and so should they conversely.
Having said that, it is important to put things in perspective by noting the following regarding the PM’s stay at the Waldorf Astoria in New York: The cheapest decent hotel in New York on any given night is $300 per person per night. This is certainly an “extravagant” amount to spend for a hotel room for an ordinary Kenyan, given our per capita income of a mere $315.
Would the average Kenyan be better off if we were to cram the PM and his entire entourage into this one room in New York at $300 per night? Would the country have better schools, better hospitals and everything else if we did so? Would the average Kenyan even begin to understand the justification, rationale and purpose of expenditures such as the PM’s travel? Does Kutuny and the like really even care about the public even understanding this at all?
My point is, let’s focus on issues that really matter starting from eliminating corruption, wasteful, bloated government spending and finding ways to bring about economic prosperity, which the PM is commendably spearheading as it is.
The PM’s official travels and related expenses are necessary for our country to remain relevant in the increasingly interconnected global village besides directly engaging parties who as a result agree to offer instruments of economic development and prosperity that we badly need as has been the case with each of the PM’s official visits abroad and elsewhere.
Thus, examined objectively, no one can disagree that the PM’s trips and expenditures are well worth it, given the PM’s success with them so those bent on using the PM’s legitimate travel and related expenses to smear him ought to be ashamed but again they may have no shame when it comes to Raila which is a shame in by itself nonetheless.