Life hard for Kenyans in 13 counties after economy shrinks

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More than 10 county economies shrunk despite the billions sunk into devolution, worsening the lives of populations in those devolved units.

A detailed analysis of the Economic Survey 2019 released last week reveals that unlike the rest of the country, which has witnessed an economic boom, life for residents of 13 counties has taken a downturn.

LIVING STANDARDS

The data, broken down to an individual, in what is known as the Gross County Product (GCP), showed that the worst-performing devolved unit was John Nyagarama’s Nyamira County, whose GCP per capita at constant prices shrunk by 5.4 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

GCP per capita is a measure of a county’s economic output shared equally among its population. It is an indicative measure of a county’s standard of living and is derived by dividing the county’s GCP by its total population.

“Per capita GCP is a measure of a county’s economic output shared equally among its population. It is an indicative measure of a county’s standard of living and is derived by dividing a county’s GCP by its total population,” the survey explains in part.

It means that if all the goods and services produced in the county were to be sold and shared equally among the residents of this county, then each would only receive Sh70,822 at the end of 2017. This is lower than the Sh74,846 they were worth the previous year.

The second and third worst performing counties were Stephen Sang’s Nandi and Jackson Mandago’s Uasin Gishu. Nandi has one of the youngest governor’s in Kenya. The county’s GCP per capita declined from Sh63,331 per person to Sh60,229 — a 4.9 per cent drop.

Residents of Uasin Gishu each had their GCP drop from Sh80,816 to Sh77,772. This is a 3.7 per cent decline over the period under review. Nandi and Uasin Gishu belong in the populous Rift Valley.

EQUITY ISSUES

To complete the list of the top five poorest performers is West Pokot and Laikipia counties where their GCP fell by 3.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively. The other counties that had their GCP drop include Turkana (2.7 per cent), Samburu (2.7 per cent), Kajiado (2.1 per cent), Makueni (2.1 per cent) and Kericho (1.9 per cent).

Makueni County’s Kivutha Kibwana has been a shining star among devolved units, but a drop in the GCP suggests that the initiatives are yet to trickle down to individual performance of each resident.

Though the total performance of a county is not just a factor of devolution, a governor’s policies are expected to be felt in the economic growth of a county.

Both the economic size and population drive this measure although this does not take into account distribution and equity issues across the county.

Devolution was supposed to improve life at the grassroots. It was to be the answer to constant calls that Nairobi had lost touch with the rest of Kenya, and it needed to let devolved units drive this agenda.

Counties have witnessed a steady increase in funds since devolution started with an initial allocation of Sh190 billion in 2013/2014 to Sh314 billion in the financial year 2017/2018.

This translates to an increase of Sh124 billion over a six-year period. But counties have chosen different paths, with some like Makueni and Kitui investing heavily in manufacturing to jump-start their economies as others just watch.

Overall, residents of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kiambu counties had the biggest GCP’s given their access to the city and relatively better economies.

The analysis shows that a resident in Nairobi has a GCP of Sh212,498, the best in the country, while in Mandera, their GCP is Sh28,602, the smallest. This means that the quality of life of a resident in Nairobi was 7.4 per cent better than their Mandera counterpart’s.

RANKED HIRE

The other top five counties by GCP are Mombasa (Sh168,448), Kiambu (Sh118,343), Nyandarua (Sh117,295) and Elgeyo Marakwet (Sh112,502). On the flip side, the smallest GCP’s besides Mandera are West Pokot (Sh38,021), Turkana (Sh38,592), Samburu (Sh44,147) and Busia (Sh44,186). This means that residents in these counties are the poorest.

“Nyandarua and Elgeyo Marakwet were also ranked high largely by virtue of having sizeable GCP and comparatively smaller population,” the report notes.

“Mandera followed by West Pokot and Turkana had the smallest real per capita GCP,” it adds.

Mr Muthomi Njuki’s Tharaka-Nithi was the most improved in terms of the devolved units that did the most to lift the economic conditions of their population in one year. This is after the GCP per capita for residents in the county growing by 14.6 per cent between 2016 and 2017. The survey shows that a resident of the county was worth Sh75,998 in 2016, which grew to Sh87,106 in 2017.

Mr Sospeter Ojaamong’s Busia was the second most improved county in the period under review. A resident of the county was worth Sh40,518 in 2016 and this rose to Sh44,186 in just a year, representing a 9 per cent jump.

Other top performers were Migori, which grew by 8.6 per cent, Kitui (6.2 per cent), Lamu (5.7 per cent), Mombasa (5.6 per cent), Elgeyo-Marakwet (5.2 per cent), Bungoma (5.1 per cent), Nyandarua (5 per cent), Nyeri (4.9 per cent) and Embu (4.6 per cent).