On February 18, the government of Bolivia returned the full sum of $346.7 million (Sh34.6 billion) IMF loan.
The decision, the government said, was “in defence of the economic sovereignty of the country and respect for the political Constitution of the state”.
The money was borrowed in April last year by the short-lived coup regime that had overthrown the government of Evo Morales. The interim government was headed by Jeanine Anez.
The illegal regime was kicked out in October when Luis Arce of Morales’s Movement toward Socialism was elected president.
In just 10 months, the IMF loan had already accrued $24.3 million (Sh2.43 billion) in interest and commissions.
“The analysis carried out by the Central Bank of Bolivia also determined the IMF’s so-called Rapid Financing Instrument conditioned on a series of fiscal, financial, exchange and monetary impositions violated the sovereignty and economic interests of the country,”the South American nation said.
This week, the debt-sodden government of Uhuru Kenyatta came under intense public pressure after borrowing another Sh257 billion from the IMF.
The highlight of citizen anger was the arrest of activist Mutemi Wa Kiama after he posted an anti-loans graphic with the image of the President that went viral on social media.
Activists launched an online signature campaign calling on the IMF to stop lending to Kenya. More than 230,000 people had signed the document by Thursday evening.
The latest loan came with a string of conditions. The IMF wants public servants to declare their wealth. The government should publish ownership of companies awarded public tenders, overhaul nine loss-making parastatals, implement anti-money laundering measures and so on.
Observers believe the IMF’s terms are likely to result in increased taxes, job cuts in the public service and other austerity measures reminiscent of the Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by the IMF and World Bank that crippled African economies in the 1980s and 1990s.
So, who rules Kenya? What determines public policy: The interests of citizens or the demands of creditors? That is the critical sovereignty question Bolivia raised in February.
Months before his assassination in 1987, the revolutionary president of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara told heads of state at the OAU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that, “Under its current form, controlled and dominated by imperialism, debt is a skillfully managed re-conquest of Africa, intended to subjugate its growth and development through foreign rules.”
By its gargantuan appetite for loans – standing at more than Sh7.2 trillion, up from Sh1.8 trillion in 2013 – the Uhuruto regime has mortgaged the country to international lenders.
Last year, Jubilee borrowed an incredible Sh3.37 billion daily. Public loans will swell up to more than Sh10.6 trillion by 2025. The citizens have the right to ask burning questions about these huge sums of money.
Where does the money go when counties are always complaining about delayed disbursement from Treasury, resulting in poor services and stalled projects? Some contractors who won government tenders have gone out of business or even died of frustration because of unpaid bills.
What are the loans used for when hospitals have no oxygen, adequate staff or medicine?
Why continue borrowing when President Kenyatta has told Kenyans the country loses Sh2 billion daily to corruption? Could there be better evidence that the loans, in fact, mostly end up in the pockets of a few fat cats?
How is it that government loans are ballooning yet the quality of life of Kenyans has not improved since Uhuruto came to power?
The country is still ravaged by mass poverty, unemployment, high cost of food, famine, lack of housing, deaths from preventable illnesses, etcetera.
The mountain of debt means more taxes to repay the loans and less money available for development – and so, poor public services and worsening poverty.
Loans are sometimes necessary. But they must be managed prudently. If the government were honest, it would publish for the benefit of citizens the full details of the loans, their terms and expenditure.
Why the secrecy? Is Kenya’s problem really a lack of money or a crisis of governance?
It seems nothing will stop the Jubilee government from reckless borrowing. The message for Uhuru from Kenyans is, ‘Maliza uende’. Complete your term and go away.
When he retires next year, Uhuru will leave Kenya a broken nation slumped in a deep debt hole from which it will take long decades to emerge.
His disastrous mismanagement of the economy suggests Uhuru was never suited to even run a kiosk. Maliza uende!