Ruto has done well on politics, but unsure on economics in 100 days

President William Ruto. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

The Kenya Kwanza administration completed her first three months in office this past Tuesday and shall be crossing the psychological 100 days in the course of the coming week.

The administration's top leaders are on record that Kenyans should not be quick to judge their performance over such a short duration of time.

However, there is credible literature to support the significance of these early days in shaping the legacy of new leaders. Of course, this does not in any way imply that if a leader performs well in their 100 days they shall necessarily succeed going forward.

Equally, it doesn't mean if they do not perform their leadership is doomed thereafter. But there is some sentimental value on a leader's success in their early days in office.

Interest in the importance of the first 100 days of a newly elected President or a leader is traceable to the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1933. He was elected into office in the midst of the worst documented depression that started in 1929.

According to Thomas Neff and James Citrin in their Book, 'You are in Charge -Now What? at the time almost every bank in the US economy was closed, one in every four people was unemployed and the survival of democratic capitalism was in doubt.

Faced with the grim realities of the economic fortunes of his people, Roosevelt was prompted into action soon after he was sworn in through a 100-day action plan called 'The New deal'. With the support of the US Congress, the president passed 77 laws targeting the revival of the economy. This charismatic intervention brought relief to businesses, farms and the unemployed.

Using this action plan, he injected billions of dollars into the economy through various government expenditure programmes. The consequential recovery of the economy set an example for other leaders beyond politics into the spheres of business and other societal settings.

Critiques of the concept by the public and pundits to use the 100 days yardstick to gauge a leader's likely performance in the future argue that this can only be realistic in a different better world.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal in 2009, David Greenberg argues for a case of the folly of the first hundred days.

Pressures of new office

He opines that new presidents tend to be clueless about the rules of governing, even when they have been in other senior leadership roles before. According to this view, nothing can prepare a new President for the responsibilities, attention and demands to act quickly, just as they need to find their footing within the pressures of their new office.

In a response to Greenberg's critique on the importance of a leader's first hundred days in office, Michael D. Watkins argues that there can never be a better world for any leader. In an article published in the Havard Business Review in March 2009, he argues that new leaders have to live in the world they inherit.

In this world, whatever the new leader does in their early days in office has a disproportionate impact on all that follows.

Further, Watkins refers to a survey he conducted while visiting a leading business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. Surveying 143 Senior Human Resources executives, at least 87 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that 'Transition into significant new roles is the most challenging times in the professional lives of managers'.

Virtous vs vicious cycles

In addition, more than 70 per cent also agreed or strongly agreed that 'Success or failure during the transition period is a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the job'.

The survey findings conclude that transitions are times when momentum builds or it doesn't; it is when opinion about the new leader begins to crystallise, and a period when feedback loops -virtuous cycles or vicious ones get established. Thus, if new leaders get early wins, they are able to build personal credibility and political capital.

In an article in the Financial Times in April 2022, Michael Skapinker asserts that energetic first 100 days demonstrate that the new leader means business.

This proves the leader can act decisively and help moblise people out of their comfort zones into the desired behaviour and action.

On target vs misfirings

Drawing from this literature, we have a credible yardstick for a candid examination of the Hustler Government's achievements or mistakes on their 100 days in office. To ensure a fair appraisal, I shall base my scorecard on the three parameters of politics, economy and foreign diplomacy.

From where I seat, all evidence point towards a master of the game in handling the political questions of the day. Three things stand out. One was the smooth and dignified transition from the previous administration despite the obvious political and administrative hostility towards the Kenya Kwanza political formation during the campaigns.

Despite the delayed symbolic congratulatory call from Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, one cannot fail to admire how the President handled the outgoing Cabinet, Principal Secretaries and other senior staff. He comfortably worked with them during the entire transition period.

Two was on keeping the promise to appoint the six rejected Judges by his predecessor on the first day in office, establishing the Judiciary Fund and re-establishing cordial relations with the previously estranged Judicial arm of government.

But the winner here is fulfilling the Hustler Fund promise. Forget about the economics, the resounding truth is that real hustlers are happy. To demonstrate their goodwill to this gesture, they have enrolled in the fund in their millions.

Parametres of economics

On the parameter of economics, there are all indications that the administration is still grappling with darkness. There are no indicators to show policy coherence or a clear strategy to steer the country into safety in the shortest time possible. A good case in point here is the failure to effectively utilize fiscal policy instruments to address the crippling cost of living for households and the cost of doing business for enterprises.

Instead, they have resulted in constraining government spending towards micro and small businesses and targeting an already overburdened middle class with petty taxes or threats. Unguarded comments on public debt and government borrowing rates, the handling of ongoing graft cases, and/or the appointment of persons with questionable integrity into prominent roles in government cannot rest well with investors. The management of the GMO question before mopping up local supplies does not give hope to farmers nor does it inspire confidence in the safety and welfare of the populace.

Finally, the administration seems to have made significant strides in asserting its presence in the region and contributing to the global agenda. The milestones towards resolving conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia grant them deserved bragging leadership rights among the community of nations.

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