Cost of living, weakening shilling expected to be top in Ruto address

President William Ruto. [PCS]

Kenyans are anticipating President William Ruto's articulation of plans to address what his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, describes as "the economic quagmire" on the country's 60th anniversary.

Political analysts also expect him to tackle the persistent challenge of corruption in government offices, despite his tough rhetoric against it. The latest instance, the edible oils saga, remains unaddressed.

Other pressing issues include high unemployment rates, soaring living costs, the implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum in education, and funding for health programs and infrastructural development projects.

Speaking at the recent Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya conference, the deputy president urged attendees to contribute ideas to the Treasury and President Ruto on how to remedy the economic challenges.

Ideas needed

"Let anyone with ideas on fixing this economy come and talk to us. On behalf of the President, I welcome ICPAK to engage with our team at the National Treasury. We invite you to share insights with the President as we are all aligned in this effort," said Gachagua.

He emphasised their openness to advice, acknowledging that no one knows everything. They expressed gratitude for any prudent advice from ICPAK that can help the country navigate the challenges it currently faces.

Political analyst Martin Andati, however, disagrees with Gachagua, advising the president not to take his advice seriously. Andati says accountants, like Gachagua, are bean counters who keep and audit books but are not recognised for wealth creation.

Andati suggests that the President should appoint top economists to lead the Treasury, guiding the economy toward growth instead of relying solely on instructions from the IMF and World Bank.

He recommends that, in his Jamhuri Day address to the nation, President Ruto should provide hope by explaining how the economy will be fixed to lower the cost of living.

Furthermore, Andati says the president should focus on assessing the country's current situation and seek solutions, especially since he has fulfilled political obligations to those who supported him in gaining power.

Tough decisions

"He must now seek individuals ready to work, make tough decisions, and have the courage to inform him of our predicament. Independent-minded individuals who can walk away if he ignores their advice," says Andati.

It has also been argued that the current government has not met expectations due to the caliber of people appointed to assist President Ruto in governing the country.

Former Cabinet Minister Kipruto arap Kirwa, who served in President Mwai Kibaki’s administration, believes the issue is that Ruto rewarded many of his political allies who helped secure the presidency, and they have now fallen short of expectations. 

“The fact is that some in the Cabinet were his campaigners, but whether they can create a team that delivers his administration's agenda is another matter altogether,” says Kirwa. He says President Ruto's leadership style does not allow him to bring in experienced individuals capable of delivering results.

“It is not him alone. It is a widespread issue across the African continent where leaders are reluctant to share credit with others. Consequently, they select individuals who are either incapable or inexperienced,” says Kirwa.

He also believes the Cabinet was not taken through what he calls Government Dispatch, a process that could have assisted Cabinet Secretaries in understanding the concept of collective responsibility.

The former minister further asserts that a seemingly dysfunctional cabinet has not assisted the president much. There should be a collective responsibility to allow them to support each other instead of making pronouncements on issues concerning other ministries independently.

Consultation

“The Cabinet must be a proper clearinghouse that ensures individual ministers make decisions after consulting colleagues, so whatever is decided has the backing of the entire government,” says Kirwa.

His perspective is that the president has not been able to create a team that synergises to collectively deliver, which is how governments, like the one he served under President Mwai Kibaki and in civilised nations worldwide, typically operate.

He further contends that some individuals in the Cabinet may be struggling because they do not work through collective responsibility, making it challenging to correct mistakes.

Kirwa highlights this dynamic frequently in Kibaki’s administration, where ministers would make mistakes, and the president would engage them, allowing each to propose a solution.

“I think the main problem with my brother President Ruto is that he may not be taking advice from anybody, and as you know, advice is only as good as the recipient,” added Kirwa.

Unless significant changes are implemented in the governance structure, he does not foresee any dramatic improvements in what the government will achieve.

Overtaxation

Analysts anticipate the President to address the severe state of the economy, as it is in disarray, impacting all facets crucial for the country's development.

“It cannot be fixed by overtaxation. The shilling is in a free fall. Jobless youth are engaged in crime. The cost of living is out of reach. Those are the things he should be talking about today,” says Prof. Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University.

He suggests that President Ruto will likely continue emphasising that the global economy is in disarray, and he inherited a challenging economic situation from Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

The President might also emphasise his commitment to creating jobs for Kenyans abroad, with the analysts arguing that this can only happen through proper investment in education, health, transport, and energy. 

The shilling has lost 29.8 per cent of its value this year. If nothing is done, analysts fear inflation could reach the levels seen in 1992 when the ruling Kanu party was funding the YK92 lobby group. “The president painted himself as our saviour and we believed him," Naituli said.

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