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How William Ruto's picks signal gradual and not radical change

Ken Opalo
 President William Ruto inspects a guard of honour during the opening of the 13th Parliament, Nairobi September 29, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Personnel is policy. It is through this lens that we should understand President William Ruto cabinet nominations delivered on Tuesday.

While campaigning, President Ruto promised a radical reorganisation of government and the economy to make both work for the common person. However, his cabinet picks scarcely suggest radical change from the status quo.

At Energy, Davis Chirchir got another chance despite his previous unceremonious exit from the ministry under former President Uhuru Kenyatta. The most important metrics for evaluating Chirchir’s performance will be the cost of fuel and power.

Energy being critical to industrialisation, his docket will be important for reducing cost of doing business (and living).

Mithika Linturi (agriculture), Alice Wahome (water), Simon Chelugui (Cooperatives and SMEs), Kipchumba Murkomen (Roads and Public Works), and Moses Kuria (trade) will be critical for Ruto’s plan of increasing agricultural productivity and boosting manufacturing and exports.

The first test for this group of ministers will be handling of fertiliser subsidies over the short rains, pace of completion and use of various dams, construction of access roads, and reforms in the tea sector.

For efficiency, these ministries might benefit from coordination by the Trade ministry. The key performance indicator should be earnings from domestic sales and exports.

To make the Public Service work, Ruto has placed his trust in Aisha Jumwa. The public sector needs professionalisation and rationalisation to improve service delivery. Without a working public sector that hires and trains the right people and then keeps them motivated and sufficiently monitored during their posting, all the best plans will mean nothing.

Musalia Mudavadi (Prime Cabinet Secretary) and Njuguna Ndungu (Treasury) will oversee coordination and financing of government. Both have a wealth of experience in government that should serve them well in (hopefully) their efforts to unlock service delivery in the public sector.

As an ambitious politician who cares about electoral salient sectors, Mudavadi would be well served by focusing on the important service delivery areas of education and healthcare.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

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