The cover of The Economist this week is titled “That Sinking Feeling (Again)”. The article on the European Union notes that the collective GDP in the Euro Zone stagnated in the second quarter: Italy fell back into outright recession, French GDP was flat and even mighty Germany saw an unexpectedly large fall in output. Inflation has been falling steadily, and this August registered lowest in 5 years at 0.3%. Europe may be headed for deflation.
The Euro has steadily lost ground against other major currencies, while the European Central Bank can’t seem to agree on clear policy direction, mostly for political reasons. The article ends by noting “the political risk that one or more countries decide to storm out of the single currency is rising all the time.” Un-employment is at 12% with some of the 18 members with as high as 24%. The young are the most affected there, with millions risking ruining their career lives by missing out on the formative years of entry point jobs according to Maria Draghi, the ECB president
Tellingly, Eurozone citizens are steadily getting disillusioned by their government, which are under pressure to improve the lot of their people. The French government just collapsed after the cabinet failed to agree on austerity measures forcing the president to dissolve it and form a new one. Like Japan which has struggled with recession for more than one decade, Europe is now waddling in its “Lost decade”.
Across the Atlantic, The economy of USA is in better shape. The GDP grew at 4.2 percent, among the best in the developed world. Inflation is growing steadily towards the near 2% Federal Reserve target. Unemployment has been falling steadily with the economy creating 200 000 new jobs per month. USA seems to have weathered the 5 year recession.
You would expect that most Americas would be happy with that. In truth, it looks way different. According to the latest NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll (Aug. 2014), six in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy, more than 70 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and nearly 80 percent blame the country’s political system.
To put it more gravely, 57% of Americans, according to the poll are angry enough to pick up a placard and demonstrate. The public seems to have moved beyond the plaintive cry of ‘Feel our pain!’ to the more angry pronouncement of ‘You are causing our pain’, the pollsters say.
And indeed, demonstrated they have. The black community in Ferguson has been on the street complaining about racial discrimination, marginalization, unemployment and general deterioration of their community. The demonstrations degenerated into violent protests accompanied by looting, destruction of property and police brutality. They are the angrier because they feel a black president should know their plight and do more to help them. So bad was the situation, Egypt with all its heavy handed way of managing demonstration requested the US to show restraint in its handling of the demonstrators! In short, Kenya scored way above the US in managing the recent Saba Saba Rallies.
Back home, our beloved Kenya, you are all aware of our doctors being on strike, and teachers threatening the same over unpaid salaries. All this time, our parliamentarians have spent over 3 billion shillings on travel alone in a single year while the Office of the President has spent close to a billion shillings in vehicle purchases. Security has been awful, and the cost of living going up. Corruption scandals and misappropriation of public funds seem to be emerging like mushrooms at the beginning of April rains.
You must have thought I am in the process of doing my PhD and have decided to scare you with arbitrary figures and abstract ideas. No, I am not doing a PhD and to be honest, these are figures and facts I have to dig out every day to help me trade foreign currencies. What I have learnt while looking at the figures and facts is that very few citizens are happy with their government across the world. Almost everywhere, governments seem to be out of touch with the needs of their people. Indeed, the people are no longer beseeching the government to feel their pain, but to stop causing their pain.
Knowing what I know now, every time I hear somebody say Serikali Saidia, I sink back in despair. There seems to be one rule of succeeding across the world, do not expect the government to help you or bail you out. If you want to succeed, it will take personal initiative, nay, personal sacrifice, to secure your future.
I am not a firm Believer of Self help books but I agree with Robert Kiyosaki when he says poor people believe that the government should take care of them and believe in social security and Medicare. The vast majority of people are technically poor people because they expect somebody else to take care of them, he adds, noting that it will never happen because laws are written for the rich, not the poor or middle class.
Now, I know we are all angry with our government, the present, and the past ones, and justifiably so. We all have an obligation to hold our government accountable, and must demand that they spend the taxes we pay prudently for the common good. At a personal level though, I would not expend so much energy being angry and protesting, or begging serikali to saidia. I would prefer to spend that energy working hard and trying to secure my future independent of the government. Politicians earn a living by complaining and in shouting matches and creating crisis and brinkmanship. They are good at what they do, they are paid for it. I will observe and take notes. The only time I am willing to spend on them is in the holiday I will get to go cast my vote.
World over, government after government has failed its citizens, time and again, or at least most of them have felt so. It happened to our fathers, it is happening to us, and it will happen to our children and their children. I have seen the empty bowl our fathers held out to greedy belching politicians. I can assure you, you will not find me on that same queue, me, my children, and my children’s children.