It is commendable that President Uhuru Kenyatta put manufacturing, affordable housing, healthcare and food security at the core of his vision in his last term. This will define how his 10-year presidency will be remembered. But accompanying this ambition is unending politics within and outside his camp, pressing problems that need to be fixed almost immediately, and impatient Kenyans waiting for solutions.
History paints a bleak picture on the ability of governments to implement most of their excellent plans. It is a history he may want to erase. The desire for low-cost houses, access to reliable healthcare, food security and meaningful jobs cannot be over-emphasised. In the recently released draft budget policy statement for 2018-2019 financial year, National Treasury is selling hope under the title ‘Creating Jobs, Transforming Lives’ banner.
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While this looks like a good pick for Uhuru, implementing the same at the pace of working that has defined his first term may not be practical. The plan has taken a futuristic and generalised view in some of the aspects and his machinery may need to fine-tune it into time-bound plans. Uhuru is counting on raising low-cost funds from the public and private sectors to construct half a million housing units by 2022. The previous offer of tax incentives for investors to build 1,000 units per year did not excite investors and he can only hope that by cutting that to 400, investors will come on board.
But even so, many Kenyans are opting to share houses and live in dilapidated structures, not because there are no good houses, but because their level of income cannot match good structures. So his definition of ‘low cost’ carries a lot of weight. For long, manufacturing, which is mainly labour-intensive, has been the dumping ground for informal workers, and Uhuru needs to heal myriad problems in the sector, and above all, drive out cartels that have brought in counterfeit goods despite tough anti-counterfeit laws on paper.
For a starving Kenyan, connecting with the huge infrastructural projects by Uhuru’s administration may be a problem. Investing in farmer education, offering incentives and saving them from ruthless cartels may be all that is needed. Interventions such as subsidies only postpone the problem.
In healthcare, reforms at NHIF, the progress in cancer treatment and the free maternity services have been commendable. However, he should improve on reliability of these services. Cases of patients being sent to buy drugs despite being insured are high. The supply chain of drugs and key equipment need to be addressed.