Aug. 25th, 2011

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Is the IMF obstructing Kenya’s devolution process? by Charles Abugre

'If a government based on devolution and the dispersal of power is to be given a chance, the IMF’s role in political horse-trading in Kenya should be curtailed,' argues Charles Abugre.

There is a tense stand-off in Kenya between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Local Government, which is holding hostage critical laws that need to be passed to implement the generally acclaimed 2010 Constitution. These ministries differ sharply on how to regulate the management of public resources. They have submitted separate draft bills to the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) to be forwarded to parliament. The one from the Ministry of Finance (The Treasury) is an Integrated Bill covering the two levels of government – the national and the county. The Ministry of Local Government has put forward two related Bills, one specific to the financial management of the county government and the other – an Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Bill – which aims to create mechanisms for ensuring coherence between the two levels of government in relation to the management of public finance. This ministry opposes the single Integrated PFM Bill approach and argues strongly for a separate Bill to strengthen the devolution process and fears that the Integrated PFM approach is a stealthy way of re-centralising power. The Constitution of Kenya creates two levels of government which are independent of each other but who should ‘collaborate and cooperate’ for the public good – very much like the American political system.

The disagreements between these two ministries, both represented by Deputy Prime Ministers, is so sharp that the CIC felt compelled to refer the matter to the two principals of the coalition government, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Word has it that although the principals were unable to reach an agreement they were perhaps leaning towards the Integrated Bill approach and therefore have ordered the two ministers to consolidate their drafts into a single Bill. This apparent decision has severely irked Kenyan civil society and the taskforce put together to detail out the devolution process and whose advice informed the Bills submitted by the Ministry of Local Government. Their anger is based on the justifiable fear that the Treasury is actively seeking to roll back powers taken from them by the constitution’s strong focus on devolution, participation and service orientation.

If it is true that the two principals are converging around a single Integrated PFM Bill, this position invariably endorses the position that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has invested heavily in promoting, ever since the referendum which endorsed the constitution. Since at least September 2010, the IMF has pushed two issues related to Public Finance Management – the creation of Integrated Public Finance Management Bill and the creation of a Single Treasury Account. Both of these positions eventually found their way into the IMF Loan Agreement with the Government of Kenya as conditionalities (Structural Benchmarks) that attract penalties if violated without a formal waiver from the IMF Board. Treasury upheld these issues because they favour Treasury. Together with other recommendations, the IMF has intervened in a manner that could be severely detrimental to the devolution process. The IMF’s wading into the constitution implementation process in the way in which they did is highly dangerous as it borders on crude political interference and is a grey area in the IMF’s mandate. I would argue that the IMF needs not be so blatantly anti-devolution in order to ensure that devolution does not create run-away expenditure and indebtedness that could derail macroeconomic stability. Kenyans need to know that behind the Treasury position is the heavy arm of the IMF. The IMF’s position on this should be out in the open and Kenyan citizens deserve to debate its merits. How the IMF intervened
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Canadians pay final respects to Jack Layton in Ottawa

Canadians and MPs are paying their respects to Jack Layton, as his body lies in state on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for two days.

By late Wednesday, more than 1,500 people had filed past the NDP leader's flag-draped coffin in the foyer of the House of Commons — a long lineup still stretching along the drive in front of the Parliament buildings.

The lineup inched along because each person had to go through the security process. People at the back faced a wait of two hours or more, but seemed unconcerned.

Athena Amarandos of Ottawa said Layton had the common touch.

"Jack Layton represented the regular Canadian person and he played an important role in Parliament in bringing government to the ordinary person."

Earlier, Layton made his final journey to Ottawa as the casket carrying his body arrived on Parliament Hill for the lying-in-state visitation.

The casket was accompanied by the NDP leader's wife Olivia Chow, his children and granddaughter, as it made its way to the Commons foyer. Layton's daughter Sarah and son Michael walked behind Chow, and they were followed by other family members.

Layton's casket left the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel on Sherbourne Street around 4 a.m. Wednesday for the journey to Ottawa and arrived in the capital by mid-morning.

The family was the first to visit the casket in the Commons foyer, followed by Members of Parliament and then the general public. MORE

His final words:

Jack Layton's Final Words: Hope Is Better Than Fear

Across Canada, people mourned the death of Jack Layton, 61, leader of the New Democratic Party and by all reports a good and deeply progressive guy. In a final letter to Canadians shortly before his death, he urged the people of his country to become their better selves. The letter:

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don't be discouraged that my own journey hasn't gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.


A memorial in chalk: Think we'll turn back? You don't know Jack.


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