When Samuel Beckett wrote the masterpiece play entitled ‘Waiting for Godot’, he never anticipated how relevant the theme would be years later. Beckett penned the play in the early 1950s and over six decades later the story line still applies in modern day world.
Today, Kenyans find themselves in a peculiar scenario of having to wait for Godot. Since British firm Tullow Oil discovered oil in Turkana, northern Kenya in 2012, anticipation has been ripe that Kenya is on the verge of a windfall from petrodollars. Indeed the excitement that engulfed the nation when then Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi made the announcement was nothing short of exhilarating.
While the thinking among a section of Kenyans was that the country would swim in petrodollars soon enough, the reality of crude oil production is that it can take years, even decades, before the crude can be extracted from the ground. Uganda’s experience, which discovered oil in 2006 and is still waiting to extract the first barrel, is a case in point.
For Kenya, expectations have yet been aroused after the government in partnership with companies involved in the crude discovery announced that oil production will commence in June next year. In what is being referred to as Early Oil Pilot Scheme (EOPS), the country will start producing some 2,000 barrels per day come June. Effectively, this means that Kenya will join the league of oil producing nations.
Ironically, the government has dampened the spirits of Kenyans after saying that no champagne would be popped just yet. According to Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau, Kenyans should not expect any windfall come June next year.
Worse still, a civil society group has come out disputing the logic of the EOPS on the basis that it amounts to a loss making venture. The group, Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, contends that rushing production without the necessary infrastructure like pipelines in place will lead into the country incurring massive losses to the tune of Sh4 billion.
In the current state of affairs, it is pretty obvious that Kenyans will have to wait much longer before the benefits of the crude can start being felt. For a country that is desperately in need of resources for development, the reality that the wait for petrodollars is akin to waiting for Godot is depressing.
The news is even more disheartening for the people of Turkana county. Being on the fringe of the country in the northern part, Turkana is the bedrock of poverty. The Commission on Revenue Allocation has repeatedly named the county as the poorest. While the discovery of oil had raised the optimism of the Turkana people, now they find themselves in a state of waiting for Godot.
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