Despite the fuss, for Kenya Kwanza the glass is half-empty

President William Ruto on a background with half-empty glass.

Thursday marked exactly 100 days in office for the Kenya Kwanza administration. Their trademark is now established as ‘the Hustler Nation’ within the country’s socio-economic fabric. In The Saturday Standard, I shared the empirical context and sentimental value attached to 100 days of the Hustler Nation administration in office.

In this article, we extend the discourse to explore the nitty-gritty of the administration’s commitments: what has worked so far and what seems not to be working in their favour? There are evidentially missed opportunities that could be vital learning points if this administration is to make a meaningful impact.

Perhaps the very reason that brought about the 100-day yardstick of a new president into focus is where the Hustler Administration is lacking in action.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decisive interventions in 1933 stalled a stubborn recession known as the Great Depression (the worst in American history) and restored hope not only to the American people but the world at large under his signature New Deal domestic agenda. In the process, this set the world economy into full recovery, reignited human productivity and birthed a new generation of leaders called the Baby Boomers.

Here at home, President Mwai Kibaki’s administration attempted a similar feat after the historic win of 2002. He inherited an economy in ICU. The official growth rate at negative two per cent and unemployment at a record high. Soon after, his administration hatched the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation which immediately became the rallying cry across government. By the time the successor long-term economic blueprint: Vision 2030 was finalised, the economic recovery was dramatic and clearly manifest across the country.

Even before the August elections, the economy was visibly out of kilter. The pain was palpable across the country. This was the very basic reason the Hustler Narrative sounded so real and authentic. This has been the window of opportunity to make their case, publicise and rally the nation around it.

Well, 100 days later, there has been no crystal clear pronouncement on a path to economic recovery.

Kenya Kwanza made an inordinately huge achievement by just winning the election given our history and the general African political context. It is not every other day in Africa when a peaceful transfer of power happens. 

In many ways, their win signified fundamental shifts in the country’s political demographics including a generational ideological shift. While the Azimio formation sought to godify the Heros of the struggle for the second liberation, the Kenya Kwanza rode on the wave of the immediacy of the daily struggles of ordinary folks.

If the voting patterns could be taken to mean a signal on the future of our politics, then it would look like the moment was ripe to bring to an end the slavery of tribal politics. The ultimate test for this is ordinarily pegged on the president’s Cabinet appointments and other offices.

On this parameter, there seems to have been a deliberate attempt by Kenya Kwanza to move out of their political comfort zones in the appointment of CSs. However, the same may not be said to be true for the appointment of Principal Secretaries and other strategic positions. Politics and cronyism seem to have eventually caught up with them.

But more glaringly, was the missed opportunity to achieve the constitutional gender equity threshold. Recently, the president made a memorandum to the two Speakers of Parliament to mobilise political troops to push for a constitutional review targeting to actualize this requirement.

The question is: why purport to care about this constitutional bar when the leaders fail to do so in an appointive process where they have absolute control?

Yes, there have been uncoordinated interventions like subsidised fertiliser, a private sector committee to mobilise aid for famine-stricken households and the launch of some “digital things” this past Jamhuri Day. We have also heard of a few prominent appointments to the Economic Council. However, their work or master plan for recovery has not been made known.

But before anybody declares my assertions as ‘Hot air’ and a wild goose chase, I refer to the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto for evidence.  They committed to increase the household incomes of struggling folks by Sh200 a day. This would in essence translate into Sh2 billion a day and Sh730 billion a year circulating in the economy.

Economic history is replete with stories of leaders who have made bold decisions to restore social and economic order in their societies. Kenya in 2002 and Rwanda and Zambia come to mind. In all these cases, there is demonstrable clarity of thought on the part of leaders.

This has always been complimented by a tangible and concise action plan that is widely acknowledged within the government, the media and across the populace. Preceding the economic failures of the Jubilee administration was a lack of such clarity when they assumed office in 2013. In 2017, it was when the BIG 4 agenda emerged, downgrading targets in Vision 2030, but too little too late.

Unfortunately and tragically so, the Kenya Kwanza administration appears to be borrowing the script of the Jubilee administration while castigating them publicly. We have trodden that path for 10 years and the outcomes have lived among us. Yes, it is only 100 days in office, but….  

Dr Muinde is a Development Economist

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