Editorials

EDITORIAL: Foreign Affairs must get diplomats housing right

kamau

Foreign Affairs principal secretary Macharia Kamau. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Plans by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to acquire property for housing diplomats across the world is a step in the right direction, especially against the backdrop of huge spending on renting space.
  • According to Macharia Kamau, the Foreign Affairs principal secretary, the ministry is seeking Sh75 billion in 15 years to achieve the goal of housing the diplomats at Sh5 billion yearly.
  • We think this proposal should be approved because it will have long-term gains, considering that Kenya was spending Sh3 billion yearly on rent.

Plans by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to acquire property for housing diplomats across the world is a step in the right direction, especially against the backdrop of huge spending on renting space.

According to Macharia Kamau, the Foreign Affairs principal secretary, the ministry is seeking Sh75 billion in 15 years to achieve the goal of housing the diplomats at Sh5 billion yearly. We think this proposal should be approved because it will have long-term gains, considering that Kenya was spending Sh3 billion yearly on rent.

However, the Ministry ought to get two things right. One, it would be wrong to take a long time building a house like is the case in Pretoria and Mogadishu due to austerity measures.

When structures are exposed to the vagaries of weather for a long time, they become weaker and the cost of construction will go up due to the start-stop hiccups. This is a burden to the already squeezed taxpayer. So, it is better to start one project and run to completion instead of launching many when there is no capacity to do so.

Two, the ministry should not watch the properties falling off like happened in New York, Canada, Washington, Russia, Australia, Japan, and Geneva — some of the country’s well known missions — without maintaining them. According to the Defence and Foreign Relations committees of Parliament, these stations were run down to the extent Kenya’s representative to the UN in New York leaving the official residence due to leakages and similar structural weaknesses. This is unacceptable.

It will not make sense for Kenya to spend billions of shillings in building the residences while the concerned ministry is leaving them to fall off. It is expected that some of the well treated public officials are diplomats because they represent their countries in their stations of posting.

So, their residences are not mere homes, but are symbols of Kenya’s stability and focus on better relations since they will play host to people who do business with Kenya and Kenyan investors.

It is, therefore, a shame that such important installations can be left to atrophy at a time diplomacy is ranking high among tools of soft influence.

We ask the government to fund the housing budget for diplomats across the world, but challenge the Foreign Affairs to take good care of Kenya’s representatives and property abroad.