What it will take to revive the ailing economy

Trade CS Moses Kuria. [File, Standard]

Trade CS Moses Kuria said he would consult even the devil if that is what it will take to revive the economy. The devil is here. Every government since independence has framed its ‘economic reforms’.

Yet, the economy remains tied to life-support of debt, peasantry agriculture and largely the informal sector. Income inequality, poverty, and unemployment remain major defining features of our economy.

The Hustler Bottom-up economic model is new wine in old wineskin. There has to be a political and economic radical paradigm shift. Tools of yesterday cannot solve the problems and challenges of the 21st century.

First, Independence generation leaders had a political philosophy and vision of a highly centralised state and state-controlled economy. They dismembered the progressive Independent Constitution to realise their political desire and vision.

After 60 years of a highly centralised state and economy, it is a historic moment for a new generation of leaders to define a new political philosophy and vision for now and future Kenya.

Second, the progressive and transformational 2010 Constitution re-imaged and re-configured the country. Its principles and values reflect the past journey and cast the vision for the future based on equality, inclusion, participation, openness and sustainability.

The Constitution outlines the sovereignty of people, the primacy of the Constitution, social and economic rights, devolution and dispersal of powers and resources, equal society and public expenditure guaranteeing equitable development, fair taxation and ethical governance as the core building blocks of the vision.

Third, the country must retrace and correct mistakes that happened after the 2013 elections.  The Constitution has outlined in detail the fundamental reforms, restructuring and alignment of the political governance, economic governance, services and public sector functions radical changes that were supposed to be done but never done. It was continuity of business as usual. The net effect of this was disastrous economic and financial risks.

Finally, radically restructuring and democratising the economy coupled with fundamentally shifting of power from Nairobi to people at the periphery and ending the era of top-down centralised governance. The country must fire with all engines.

The country has ushered new era of Economic Democracy Moment. It is the moment for democratic consolidation to achieve larger economic and human freedoms. The realisation of economic democracy will be through Pivot Devolution and Local Economic Development (LED).

Pivot Devolution and LED plan is the foundational basis of implementing the 2010 Constitution building blocks. It is the surest way to build a people centred strong and progressive country, achieve a middle and below-inclusive economy, ensure labour productivity, address the legacy of historical marginalisation and exclusion, guarantee the rule of law and access to justice, offer people-centred security and safety, and deepen participatory democracy system of governance. 

Devolution and LED enable Kenyans to tap their local unique potential and prioritise local needs as well as address the local legitimate aspirations of today’s youth and working population away from the centrally controlled economy, security and governance

Looking at the bigger picture of the global economy, trade and competitiveness, Kenya needs a stronger rule of law and better governance;  human capital investment, market-creating innovations and technology;  competitive tax and business-friendly legal regulatory environment;  economic diversification, regional trade and export industrial production;  mobility, connectivity and better infrastructure; and cheap green energy supply. Now, what kind of public and private investments does Kenya need to make the country more inclusive, more competitive and equal? 

-The writer is Executive Director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict. @NdunguWainaina