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Let’s reject roadside statements ahead of next year’s poll

KEN OPALO
By Ken Opalo | October 16th 2021

Planning introduces transparency and ties our hands at all stages of implementation. [Courtesy]

Talk is cheap. Ahead of next year’s election politicians are likely to promise the heavens, often without a care for the facts. Voters should push back and ask for details.

For example, what will it take to pay unemployed Kenyans Sh6,000 a month? What will be the eligibility criteria? And where will the money come from?

Everyone who follows the news will remember Jubilee’s failed promises of laptops per child and stadiums. The failure to fulfill these promises was the result not only of Jubilee’s unmatched corruption, but also poor planning.

Instead of starting with policy analysis and planning, they simply announced the policy then hoped to make it work. The vacuum created by lack of planning provided an opportunity for tenderpreneurs to hijack the projects for their own ends.

This is the story of every single major policy pronouncement in the country – from Galana-Kulalu to the Standard Gauge Railway project.

Careful planning serves a number of important functions. First, it enables serious policy analysis in context. It is not enough to have great plans. Such plans must be workable.

Second, planning introduces transparency and ties our hands at all stages of implementation.

While it certainly would not end corruption, serious public planning would help coordinate expectations about project implementation, thereby reducing opportunities for project capture by tenderpreneurs.

Finally, transparent planning enables the public to provide policy feedback, thereby increasing the odds of successful implementation. We lose a lot from not publicly discussing the details of public policy.

The talk of “Hustlers” has injected much-needed discussion of programmatic policies into the campaigns. However, for us to reap the full benefits of this new shift in our political discourse, we must demand that politicians offer more than roadside pronouncements.

For a start, they should all make public their senior economic and social policy advisers and let them regularly discuss their ideas in the media.

Opalo is assistant professor at Georgetown University

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