How 'forced economy' is a money minter for insiders

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he announced the lifting of the ban on wearing of masks in public places on March 11, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

With the stroke of a pen, mask sellers were left with dead stock.

One trader outside a supermarket was selling them at half price a day after wearing masks in public was made optional

Unless one wants to keep masks as souvenirs, their days in the market are numbered.

We can predict the price will rise as manufacturers scale down production. Masks will still be useful when it’s dusty or cold in the highlands.

They should have come when I was in primary school when it was cold and chilly in the mornings.

Lifting a government rule will end several base businesses; designers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Add sanitisers too.

What of all those hand washing bays?  One could argue that we should not sympathise with these entrepreneurs, they made their money.

I recall a packet of 50 masks going for Sh5,000 when Covid-19 hit. Sanitisers were costly and rare.

Lifting the mandate on wearing masks left us wondering how many other businesses would close because they are 'forced' by law or regulation.

Suppose mandatory car insurance was made optional? Suppose schooling was made optional?

These examples demonstrate how laws and regulations 'create' businesses. But the same laws or regulations can destroy a business.

How many read the Kenya Gazette on Fridays? Remember the mandatory speed governor? The rule on putting solar panels on roofs?

The 'forced economy‘ can be a money minter for insiders. Suppose one knew masks would be made compulsory in advance?

Public consultation can preempt insider trading, but how many participate? In emergencies such as Covid-19, there was no time for public consultation.

The latest forced economy is putting up toll stations on roads without giving motorists alternatives. It is common practice all over the world that for any toll road, motorists must have a choice.

While we sympathise with mask sellers, the hard reality is that laws and regulations are an integral part of the economy, with losers and gainers.

We can only hope that the laws and regulations are fair, made to benefit the greatest number of people at the lowest cost. Who lies that the government has no business in business?

We hope Covid-19 is over and in future, children will ask why we once covered our mouths and noses with a "funny thing".