The reverse Midas touch of Government evident in leasing business

Marvin Sissey

Historians remember the Greek mythology featuring King Midas, of the royal house of Phrygia for his uncanny ability to turn everything he touched to gold. King Midas was granted one wish by the god Dionysus. Greedy for riches, Midas had wished that everything he touched would turn gold. He soon regretted his request. While it was considered good fortune when this special power was granted, it would soon lead to his death by starvation (you can guess what happened to his food).

Ironically, the capitalistic society we live in has been unable to register the ‘hidden’ anti-greed wisdom behind the story and the phrase Midas touch is nowadays universally accepted to be used with positive undertones to refer to the ability to generate and manage large amounts of money and profits synonymous with the literal translation from the story- ‘Golden touch.’  It has come to be equivalent with the good fortune of having positive impacts on bottom lines. 

Obviously, many of us are painfully aware that our government, to no great surprise, is more adept, not at having positive bottom-line but the exact opposite – draining resources to no great end. In particular, this government can’t even seem to reign in the shilling despite there being favourable crude oil prices in the global market that positively impacts our balance of trade.   To this end, it would only be understandable if Kenyan citizens started praying for the gods to grant our government the Midas touch. 

Unfortunately, the reverse happens to be true. This government, like its predecessors, seems to have acquired the bad omen of ruining whatever it is that it touches –case in point being the security situation in the country that has totally devastated the tourism industry – hence the discussion about the reverse Midas touch of the same government. 

But for all the ills that the government suffers from, none is as ugly as the monster of corruption – the chronic economic disease that seems to be passed down successive governments like a hereditary condition.

Despite great strides being done to create institutions that should fight this vice, there seems to be no slowing down of the ‘it’s our turn to eat’ mentality. All that is changing is the sophistication of the game with greed becoming even bigger.

Players are discovering new avenues of fleecing the taxpayers every single day with the syndicate now expanding to lure and loop the private sector into the mix.  The latest of these avenues has been the leasing industry. 

Leasing is well known and embraced by the private sector as an economically sound method of movable assets acquisition.  The idea of renting rather than owning is a welcome move that proves to be economically efficient in the long term. 

So when government expressed interest to embrace leasing as a policy of acquiring their assets, the players in the private sector lauded the move as a smart one. Government parastatals followed suit. 

But as expected, the foray of government into this otherwise noble sector is proving to be a classic reverse Midas touch. While the Sh6 billion leasing contract for police vehicles was fairly well executed, the follow up Sh38 billion medical equipment leasing contract is shrouded in a lot of mystery. There seems to have been not sufficient stakeholder participation and governors were first to raise eyebrows over the transactions. 

One can’t understand why local leasing companies were overlooked in the award of this tender even when it is clear that much savings would have been made with the local route. 

The recent case where none other than the President publicly scolded the Kenya Airports Authority , a government body , for leasing five buses at a colossal sum of Sh10 million monthly to a foreign firm goes to show how government is keen to taint the image of a sector that has shown much promise otherwise. Let me not even start on the Anglo-leasing saga! The only people having the Midas touch when it comes to government leasing business, it seems, are those shameless con tenderpreneaurs! 




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