Sunday, February 22, 2009

"At Least We're not as Bad as......."

Often when politicians in government and government employees like PS's are interviewed on corruption scandals, poor service delivery, inefficiency etc, they will say things like "even the west has scandals", "country 'a' (usually USA/UK/Germany or some other 'developed country') is just as bad/worse, "at least we are not as bad as country d (usually Somalia)" etc etc.

I find this argument counter productive at best; damaging and insulting at worst.

Rather than consoling ourselves with what is rubbish or average, we need to be benchmarking ourselves with what is the very best in the world. If our quest is truly to make this country great, we do not have the luxury of patting ourselves on the back because others have bigger scandals or worse roads or slower service provision.

The developed economies can absorb some corruption and they can absorb some inefficiency.

Our government needs to realize that ours cannot; that one shilling has far greater significance to Kenya and to a Kenyan than it does to the US or UK or Saudi Arabia and to their citizens.

Comparing us and our scandals/inefficiency to them and theirs is abit like me comparing losing a million of my shillings to Chris Kirubi losing a million of his. The loss of the million would cripple me financially, it would probably not even dent his bank balance.

So whereas CK can be extravagant, cavalier and don't care with his resources, I cannot afford to be the same with mine.

I think that each and every one of our Government departments/parastatals/councils and tax spending organizations should be looking at who is the best at doing what they do in the world and replicating or surpassing that for Kenyans.

Our vehicle registration department, for example, should not concern itself with how bad Italy's vehicle registration system is, but with which country's vehicle registration system is the best and how we in Kenya can copy, adapt and implement a system of our own that is either to that standard or better. I don't care if the registration department in question is in the US, Bahrain, Rwanda or Tibet.

Great people do not become great by being average..they out-hustle, out-think, out-try and out-fight average people. Similarly if we want our country to be great, then we are going to have to aim for much higher than average. I would like to see this reflected in the things our ministers/PS's and others say and do.

Uhuru Highway...again

In this post, I expressed the hope that following the re-carpeting of Uhuru Highway, the contractors would smooth out the 'bumps' that have effectively been created at every junction where there is a height difference between the old and new layers of tarmac. To date this has not occurred.

I am sincerely hoping it won't be the case but I am increasingly starting to think that things are going to be left as they are. These bumps slow down traffic and create artificial bottlenecks. One thing we really, really do not need on our city centre roads is more bottlenecks.

My fingers are crossed that this will be addressed soon as it would be totally infuriating if having taken away one source of traffic jams by fixing the road, the powers that be introduce another in the form of these bottlenecks.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mr/Ms Nairobi Driver.....

Dear Kenyan,

You're driving towards the National Museum from town at rush hour. The route most would take is along Uhuru Highway - Museum Hill roundabout - Museum Hill. Yes?

Ofcourse there's plenty of traffic joining the Museum Hill roundabout..especially in the innermost lane. Infact the line in that lane is significantly longer and slower than the other two lanes.

Do you:

a) Join the queue and hope the police at the roundabout are helping rather than hurting traffic flow today or

b) Chuckle at all the losers queuing in a slow lane, zoom past and try to squeeze in at, or near the roundabout.

Those that would pick (b), I have this to say to you:

It is likely that you are amongst those who watch news/read newspapers and shake your head at how much our selfish/thieving leaders are ruining our country.

At some level Mr/Ms queue jumper, you are William Ruto/Yagnesh Devani or whoever you are lamenting about's why:

What you do everyday at Museum Hill roundabout (and countless other roads across Nairobi) is advance your own selfish interests in a manner that is detrimental to the greater good of the society in which you exist.

The 'losers' in the queue are also tired/just want to get home/have kids to pick from school/meetings to attend/places to get to etc. They are also frustrated and fed up with our traffic, our police (who are as likely to worsen traffic flow as to make it better) and the 'other' drivers who behave like maniacs. But they queue anyway.

I'm sure you'll say its no big deal, that I'm making too much of it, that it does not harm anyone..but I beg to differ. You're actions slow down traffic flow and contribute to the congestion. It is in large part because of you and others like you that the innermost lane is so clogged and moving so slowly. I can guarantee you if nobody did what you chose to do, that queue would move much quicker and the vast majority of us would get where we are going a lot faster. Therefore my friend, what you are doing amounts to stealing our time...which means that you are stealing our money. But you don't care about that do you? You have places to go/things to do that are much more important than anything all the others have to do right? can get away with it.

Yagnesh, Ruto etc do the stuff you complain about because they KNOW they will get away with it. So ask yourself again as you zoom past the losers in the slow lane...if you KNEW you could get away with stealing 1 or 2, 4 or 8 billion from innocent Kenyan taxpayers...would you do it?

I am inclined to think that in many cases the answer would be 'yes' for many of you chronic 'petty' traffic offenders. You won't say it out loud but your actions on a daily basis say much more than your loud lamentations.

Therefore your complaint is less about the dishonesty and immorality that you see/hear about in news everyday and more about the fact that you have not had the opportunity that the Pattnis and Too's of this world have had.

You will probably find it extreme and offensive that I would draw such conclusions about you from such a small act but your small act is symptomatic of the ills you complain about in our society.

So, Dear Sir/Madam, please think carefully about your actions on the road and act in a way that not only benefits society, but will also, more importantly, convey whatever message you wish to give about the sort of person you really are.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Travel Post 1 - The airports

After the great passport fiasco of 2008, the time came for me to strap on my parachute.

My itinerary was JKIA - DXB - LHR.

Its been said time and time and time again (often as you'll notice by Cold Tusker) that JKIA is a hole. It is. There's no other way to put it. It is dark, cramped, shabby and really quite dirty.

Yes..the airport is old and we either need an upgrade/expansion/renovation or a whole new airport but I personally do not think that we are making anywhere near the most of what we do have at the moment. For example, there is no reason whatsoever for the place to be so disgustingly dirty. The fixtures and fittings are of the very lowest quality and standard and are falling apart, the place is packed with many tiny shops that all seem to do the same 2 or 3 things....alcohol, perfumes, chocolates, curios (and often have no staff manning them), at arrivals passport control there were boxes and other crap spilling out of the some cupboard off to the side...I mean its just generally terribly shabby and tacky...there's a real low rent feel to the place....from the wobbly writing stand provided for filling in departure cards to the 'burglar proofing chic' look that seems to have been the design brief for the place. Its a sad and pathetic airport that conveys lack of care, planning or any sort of ambition.

Oh my wow! One thing that you definitely cannot say about Dubai airport is that whoever it belongs to is lacking ambition. I did not think that the old terminal (Terminal 1) was anything to scoff at, but the new terminal (Terminal 3) is phenomenal..if only for its sheer size. I walked over to Terminal 1 and by comparison it now seems small, stuffy, crowded and very underwhelming. Of course with Dubai, there's often the impression that they have perfected the art of the super glossy veneer that hides a fairly average if not tacky underbelly (and there are hints of it when you peep into certain nooks and crannies) but all in all it is a very nice place to transit through.

The shops are huge, the staff are plentiful and super attentive and the selection of certain things (alcohol, fragrances to name a couple) is just confusing. Nice space, seemingly well thought out, well planned, well trained and ample staff and a feeling that all aspects within it work in airport management, airline management and duty free management.

London impressions...nice lights illuminating their Terminal 3 building (also has a nice exterior quadrangle) and crowded.... Badly crowded and quite cramped.

Its not as bad as JKIA in that the shops are pretty okay and presented well and it is not as (evidently) filthy but it also gives the impression of being an airport that is stretched to its very limits.

NTV news, KTN news

To quote a Bernie Mac line......"I'm sick a' this sh**"...

During yesterdays NTV news bulletin at 9, I noticed two misspellings that should not have been there. They spelled Bonny Khalwale's name wrong when they were interviewing him (I think they interviewed a fellow called Khawalale or something) and they were talking about 'draw dawn' (rather than draw down) at the KPC in their oil shortage story.

I notice these sorts of very basic mistakes all the time on NTV news...especially with the written information that accompanies their stories or the stuff that scrolls at the bottom of the screen throughout the news bulletin. It always makes me wonder....who the hell is in charge of editing and ensuring that they transmit stuff that is at the very least grammatically correct? Is he/she Linus Gitahi's brother/wife? Why else would they even still have the job when its been shown that they are not doing it?

What is the hiring criteria for reporters, copy writers etc at our local stations? Do you just have to have two eyes, two hands and a voice? How else could someone like Larry..........................................................(pause)...................................................Madowo be a reporter? Who told the dude that pausing for a minute between his first and last names was cool, interesting, funny or clever? How does his boss allow it? Is it a private running joke at the station?

There are also often grammatical errors, nonsensical sentences, mispronounced words and the content and flow of many stories is quite poor.

And when and why did they start cutting to reporters on their own offices!!!! Whats is the logic of having Rob Nagila provide the vocal for a story with all its various graphics and clips, then cut to him... standing in the NTV office, mic in hand to give us the story outro. If the story did not include a reporter reporting from a related location, why not just end the clip with dude saying his name..sight unseen?

As for the KTN news coverage, they also make the same basic mistakes, but what really gets my goat is their introduction to the news where they basically get on their soapbox for 2 minutes and tell us what they think/prescribe/recommend about goings on of the day/week/month. Why??!! I watch the news to see what's happening not to hear what the powers that be at KTN think about it. If they want to give us their opinion, they should create a whole different show...maybe call it 'KTN Thinks....' or something similar...or perhaps have an editorial segment after the news where they discuss the days news and their opinion on it. Why is the segment at the very top of the show? Do they think that their opinion about the day's news is more important than the actual news??

Strangely enough, I don't really watch much Citizen or K24 news despite my obvious irritation with the big boys news bulletins. Is their news coverage any better?

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Kenya We Want...The Kenya I Want....

Smart, creative, progressive, honest and competent management of all public institutions and public resources.

I think if we had that, the rest would gradually fall into place.

Anything I've missed out or that should be added?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Month of Tragedies

My condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the two recent tragedies.

We as Kenyans, individually and collectively need to take a long hard look at ourselves, what we are doing and where we are going.

It is heart-wrenching to see death, injury and destruction on such a scale but what makes it so much worse is the fact that both of these tragedies were ultimately totally avoidable.

Mama wrote a stirring post on this subject and I think every Kenyan should read and re-read it.

More later....