By Empraim Njega
Now that we are sinking KShs 150 Billion on Nairobi-Naivasha SGR section while not sure about what it will be transporting maybe it is time we discuss how we can salvage something out of the project;
1. I would propose the section be turned into a commuter train with a link to Nakuru and a link to Nairobi CBD.
This section should be electrified with design speeds of 160 km/hr. A similar electrification to be done to Machakos.
This should translate to commuting time of about 40 minutes between Nairobi CBD to Machakos/Naivasha.
2. We should then invest in big housing projects of no less than 100,000 houses around Machakos and Naivasha.
A three bedroom house to sell at no more than KShs 3 million and its rent to be no more than KShs 10,000 per month.
Those paying rent should do so as part of their payment towards eventual ownership. These estates should be built around livelihoods by providing adequate infrastructure for small business.
A 100,000 settlement can create a lot of jobs. It will host about 400,000 people who will need many services translating to thousands of businesses. Adequate business premises should be constructed and charge reasonable rent.
3. This would help de-congest Nairobi, lower cost of living and ensure SGR benefits Kenyans.
Meanwhile I think the Housing Development Fund thing is ill thought out and is probably driven by wicked motives.
According to KNBS total wages in both private and public sector amounted to KShs 1.817 trillion in 2017. A 3% of that is KShs 55 Billion.
This is a lot of money to be collected without a comprehensive plan on how it will be spent and how the contributors will benefit. That is why MPs initially rejected it.
Those who do not benefit from the fund will be repaid their money after 15 years or upon retirement whichever is earlier. Why then force them to save in the first place? Of course if it is not mandatory many would opt out but still makes little sense.
Why should it be that only the employed are to contribute and benefit from the fund? Is it only those with jobs that need affordable housing? The formal sector employs 2.8 million Kenyans while the informal sector employs 14 million Kenyans. The Fund should therefore be open to all Kenyans just like NHIF and NSSF.
This country has a very bad history when it comes to social security funds such as NSSF and NHIF. If the Housing Fund is not well defined it will turn into another slush fund for politicians with all manner of scandals.
Kenyans have been paying for the Railway Development Fund yet not even the Auditor General knows where the money has been disappearing to. The Housing Fund will be a repeat of that if we are not careful.