Many young people across the world have stood up to speak about bad things that happen around us today. This, however, is in stark contrast with the loud silence of young Kenyans. Not that there is a shortage of issues they could lend their voices to.
Perhaps the most important issue that stands to impact the future of young Kenyans is the public debt crisis, about which economists have warned enough. Standing at about Sh6 trillion, Kenya’s public debt is a ticking time bomb. It more than tripled within just about six years rising from Sh1.8 trillion in 2013 to Shh6 trillion in 2019.
Consequently, debt repayment obligations are already limiting government expenditure on essential goods and services like healthcare and education.
And because government has turned to borrowing from local banks, having exhausted credit options abroad, it not only denies local businesses the credit they need to grow and create more employment, but also limits ability to pay taxes.
The future will be worse if things do not change drastically.
You see, Kenya Revenue Authority has failed to meet revenue targets since 2013. What that means is that a time is coming, in the not-so-distant future, when we shall have so much debt but so little in the domestic economy to repay and remain with substantive revenues to spend on social services and economic growth. Hell shall break loose! There will be severe job losses, extreme poverty, social strife, insecurity and political upheaval. Greece recently had a taste of this.
But as all this goes on, the question that lurks is, where is the voice of young people who stand to lose the most?
What are young people saying about rising unsustainable public debt? Are they even aware of grave implications that bad debt policies made by the current administration could have on their future?
Truth be told, young people in this country, (and I am one of them), have flunked the leadership test. And on this public debt issue, appear far removed from conversations about how Kenya is cruising overdrive toward a disastrous crisis.
When China and those who gave us Eurobonds come to auction our national assets after we default – the old men and women signing loan deals today will be long gone .
It will be our mess to handle. We will have our children to answer to. Where were we? What did we say and do when our country was mortgaged and peddled to the highest bidder?
The irony however is, that young Kenyans are perhaps amongst the most dynamic in Africa. More educated, ICT-savvy, innovative, free willed and open.
This is because people who came before us fought for previous regimes to invest in education, health, a better economy, and rule of law to govern us and guarantee free speech, free enterprise and equality to think and thrive.
We fail those who fought for liberties we enjoy today by not standing up to act. We fail them by training our eyes away from the important issues that threaten our future.
The writer is executive director, Africa Centre for People Institutions and Society.