The 4th Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 places under County governments the functions of cultural activities, public entertainment and public amenities including; a) Betting, casinos and other forms of gambling, b) Racing, c) Liquor licensing, d) Cinemas, e) Video shows and hiring, f) Libraries, g) Museums, h) Sports and cultural activities, i) County parks, beaches and recreation facilities.
So where in the pecking order of County governments programmes each financial year do they place the above stated cultural activities, public entertainment and public amenities? We state without any fear of contradiction that they are bottom and with the least budgetary allocations. Yet those matters are at the core of the people of the County.
Why should roads and other infrastructure function of the County get the highest budgetary allocation and then the functions that directly impact on the social wellbeing of the County residents of cultural activities, public entertainment and public amenities enumerated receive meagre financial allocations? Is it a case of our County governments’ total misplacement of priorities or that infrastructure offers more opportunities for corruption, thievery to the Governor, County government public servants, County Assemblies in comparison to social functions bestowed upon them by the Constitution?
Alcoholism is systematically disabling a whole generation of men, yes men. The irony is that the majority of the brewers of chang’aa who destroying and shortening the lifespan of most men rendering them useless and impotent are women. The tragedy and the silent wasting away of a generation of men is happening as we pretend that it’s not a threat to our core as a society as communities in the former western province. Like addiction to drugs, most of us take the view that so long as it does not affect me or my immediate family it’s not my problem. Let us make no mistake, is there no family in Western Kenya that is not confronted with one of its own as an alcoholic or betting addict?
The alcohol question is not a national government question, it is a County governments’ question. It is a local, social problem we must confront ourselves. The United States of America faced the alcoholism epidemic at the start of the twentieth (20th) century (1900-1930s) and it was in trying to combat that menace that the now worldwide Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) organization was created as a mutual aid fellowship with thestated purpose of enabling its members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
County governments stop wishing away the alcoholism vice that is gnawing at a significant section of your County citizens. It is a serious epidemic. Like the jiggers menace, the alcoholism epidemic is a factor of poverty, the unemployment challenge, the boredom borne of either failure to apply ourselves or engage ourselves while waiting for the never-to-come jobs.
County governments and County assemblies ought to have strictly regulated alcohol brewing whether chang’aa or busaa or whatever to ensure those engaged in that business meet the necessary hygiene thresholds and its distribution, sale equally controlled. Just as Counties are raking in millions of shillings from boda boda operations and sale of foodstuffs, goods at markets the brewing, distribution and consumption of alcohol, whether chang’aa or busaa ought to be equally generating revenue for the County.
County Governments must interrogate whether the regions cultural practices that have alcohol consumption as part of their transactions ought to be reviewed or not. The disco matanga menace undermining the education of our children is a byproduct of our elaborate burial rites that ought to be reviewed to suit the 21st Century. The Church, the mosques must speak, do more on the vices of alcoholism, betting if we have to tame them.
Then next vice to alcoholism is betting, which is equally distracting those who are pursuing education from doing so. Those who are poor are betting using the little money they have in the hope of getting a windfall, landing a jackpot in millions. Betting is creating more poverty than riches for those who indulge in it and worse, the monies aggregated in small doses is fished from our already poor region by Nairobi based betting firms.
But so how are Counties regulating betting companies that are all centred in Nairobi and use technology to siphon poor people’s money from the comforts of their cell phones? What innovations, creativity have our Counties developed to advocate new legislation that allows them to make betting more costly to betting companies and for those betting companies to pay taxes to Counties based on monies they collect from the Counties whether through mobile phones or physical betting machines.
Counties must wake up to the new reality that the financial world of Kenya went digital since 2010 onwards, they have to seek ways to tax those using the digital platforms to operate in their Counties. To rely on the old model of tax, revenue collection tied to physical operations in their Counties is an outdated model and their revenue base will only continue todiminish.
County governments deploy the influential intellectuals, use the knowledge industry to address the critical issues that are your mandate of superintending cultural activities, public entertainment and public amenities that are critical at improving the quality of your people’s lives. But alcoholism and betting are killing the bone marrow of your key generation of men. They must be rescued and others prevented from going down that drain of alcohol and betting addiction. The duty cannot be wished away, swept under the carpet, postponed? They are an emergency requiring emergency solutions.