Magazine article New African

IMF's 'Useless Excercise'. (around Africa)

Magazine article New African

IMF's 'Useless Excercise'. (around Africa)

Article excerpt

Spending $1.8m (KShsl40m) to organize workshops about poverty just doesn't make sense to many Kenyans. But an IMF loan requires Kenya to do just that. "Since when did poverty become an academic exercise?," asked Karega-Munene, a university professor.

When Kenya received $193m in aid last July through the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility programme, the country agreed to a participatory process involving development partners and the wider society -- including the poor. Part of the deal was that Kenya should use $1.8m to hold workshops and seminars to prepare a "Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper", which outlines how the country intends to tackle poverty.

But some Kenyans don't think such a discussion is needed. Many are indeed angry.

"We know how we ended up in poverty and we do not need to sit down and narrate it once again," says David Mwenje, an MP from a low-income Nairobi constituency. "If they want to see poverty, let them come to the Embakasi slums in my constituency. When you are in a hole, you simply stop digging."

But the government insists that the conferences and seminars must go ahead. "The money will be used in reaching communities and ensuring that there is coordinated and coherent approach at the district and community level," explains Peter Gakunu, the planning director of the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

Consultations will rake place in 25 of Kenya's 69 districts, followed by the preparation of the "Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper" by April 2001.

"The talks will enable the affected people to come together and outline their priorities as opposed to the past trend where decisions were made in boardrooms by government technocrats," says Harold Wackman, the World Bank director in Kenya. According to him, the strategy paper is worth more than the amount it will cost.

But Beth Mugo, an MP, strongly disagrees: "The economists in the government must be joking," he said. "It is high time they advised the government on how to kick-start the economy. If they are spending that money to build a hospital, one will understand; but seminars and workshops make no sense".

Kenyans are currently in the throes of one of the worst economic nightmares in their history. The economy was projected to grow by 2.3% last year, but is now only expected to grow by 0.5%. Just over half of all Kenyans live below the poverty line on less than 1,254 shillings a month -- fuelling the anger about the seminars. …

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