The ongoing war of words between the Kajiado County government and Tata Chemicals over land rates calls for a quick resolution lest hundreds of jobs are lost in the process.
The bone of contention is the county government’s demand for payment of a Sh17 billion land rates bill for the 240,000 acres of land that the company uses to mine soda ash.
The company, which acquired Magadi Soda, over a decade ago insists that the rates being demanded are inflated, arguing that it will be forced to shut down operations if the bill is enforced. The county government has already flexed its muscles by shutting down the company’s offices and clamping its cargo wagons. It has also threatened to cut water supply to the firm. It is demanding Sh17 billion, but the firm argues that it can only afford to pay Sh150 per acre and not the Sh4,000 per acre that is stipulated in the county government’s bylaws.
While the county government has a right to demand its dues, we aver that the way it is going about it is not proper.
Such disputes can easily be resolved amicably without hurting multi-billion shilling investments and jobs. The country cannot afford to lose many jobs at a go yet attempts are being made at the national level to reinvigorate the economy.
The county government’s actions are also sending a negative message to prospective investors abroad that they can be harassed at will without following the laid down protocols.
The two parties should agree to meet and thrash out the matter amicably. We urge the county government to allow reason to prevail and take the matter for arbitration if dialogue fails to work.
We aver that there exists better ways of resolving the matter instead of using brute force to the detriment of a viable investment.
The two parties should reach a viable solution that will be conducive for all involved. But in order for that to happen there is need to abandon the hardline positions. The national government should also not also stay silent as a county battles with an international investors. There should be mechanisms for resolving such matters in place to avoid a situation where the country risks becoming a pariah among global investors for mistreating them.