Post-poll chaos will make Kenya East Africa's weakest economy

Tyre-barricade during Azimio la Umoja demonstrations in Kisumu on March 20, 2023. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The protracted post-poll stand-off is bad politics and bad economics. For an economy regarded as the largest in the region, there is nothing to smile about.

As Mosese says in Francis Imbuga's play 'Betrayal in the City', "We have killed our past and are busy killing our future."

After long dalliance, nay, full-blown romance with single-party dictatorship, we transitioned to democracy at the same time as the iron curtain of communism was rolled back in Eastern Europe. The hallmark of multiparty democracy is that transfer of power happens at the ballot. If that is not permitted to hold, then we must discard whatever we have in the name of democracy and embrace another form of government.

We can set up a monarchy or acquiesce to dictatorship as a means to govern ourselves. If anything, I have heard a lot of talk about benevolent dictatorships. Well, for the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing benevolent in a dictatorship. That is why Winston Churchill once observed that "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried."

For a country that has tasted tyranny, the suppression of people's views, the rule of a narrow minority over the rest, and the imposition of stability through fear, we must not even entertain the thought. However, every time we head into the polls, we emerge more wounded than we went in.

Ethnic and political outbursts that are not helpful take centre-stage as those that take a moderate stand are labelled sellouts. Are our elections fatally flawed to help us confer our mandate to a new Chief Executive Officer or are our elections held captive by mischievous politics that is agnostic to everything else except narrow sectarian interests?

As you ponder on that question, let's briefly look at our economic standpoint. For some time now, we have been told that the economy grows between four per cent to six and sometimes seven per cent in a year. As Dambisa Moyo, a Goldman Sachs Economist and author of repute would say, if an economy grows at the rate of three per cent per capita and above a year in a generation, say 15 years, an economy would inadvertently double its per capita income.

In simple terms, between the time Kibaki came in and Uhuru left, we should have experienced the Asian tiger-style of prosperity. But truth, just like the sun and the moon, as Buddha put it, cannot be hidden for long. So, the question is; if we have been doing so well for so long, why are we doing so badly now? The short answer is a decade of wasteful spending in infrastructure without corresponding investment in productive sectors like agriculture and manufacturing coupled with huge election shocks every five years.

If you look at our economic growth between shock years and non-shock years and compare it with our neighbours like Tanzania where elections have largely become non-issues vis-a-viz the economy, then you begin to appreciate how destructive our politics are. Economists have projected that if all factors are held constant, election shocks are sustained for the next 20 years would see us become the poorest country in East Africa.

These issues, largely inherited from the past administration have presented the government with a headache of gargantuan proportions. First, the majority of investors have taken off to the sidelines carrying with them huge capital that has left so many with massive job and income losses.

Since we did not stop digging the moment that we found ourselves in an economic hole, both sides of the political divide should proceed to commit themselves to a dispassionate national conversation devoid of name-calling and chest-thumping.

The continued fixation with Agenda Four by the last administration precisely at the time when the government should have focused on austerity should prick the conscience of players on both sides to focus on the big idea- the philosophical vision of the country.

-Mr Mwaga is a Governance and Policy [email protected]