Is Kenya Kwanza economic agenda avoiding default?

Ken Opalo is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University. 

is a lot more to economic policymaking than meeting deadlines set by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF are firefighters.

They are absolutely needed when one’s fiscal house is on fire, but they are certainly not good architects.

Like all good firefighters, their number one objective is to put out fires even if it means breaking down doors.

Only a fool would believe the operations of a firefighter constitute repair, let alone renovation. No country in the world has ever escaped the hold of endemic poverty by being a good student of the IMF.

By definition, countries that self-select into IMF programmes are poorly run. Many, like Argentina and Ghana, turn into perennial students. Bad habits are hard to shake off.

This should be a warning for us. For a decade under Jubilee, Kenya was poorly run. A lot of money was borrowed without a plan, and much of it was stolen. Economic policymaking was subordinated to deal-making and stealing. Consequently, we lost all the momentum we had built under the administration of President Mwai Kibaki.

The hope was that the dire situation created by misgovernance under Jubilee would force the Kenya Kwanza administration to not fall into the same temptation of deal-making above policymaking. So far, there is little evidence that the current administration is any different.

Corruption at the highest levels of government is still rampant. And of the money that is not stolen, wastage is the name of the game. There is little actual serious policymaking that one can point to. Stop-gap emergency measures are the order of the day.

Ominously, nearly everything the government has done so far that passes for serious policymaking has been motivated by the need to meet specific IMF targets and deadlines.

To this end, the government has resorted to mindless taxing the economy to death, while not even pretending to be interested in cost-cutting.

In the maniacal fixation with avoiding default (which is a reasonable goal), little time has been spared for real policymaking in education, healthcare, agriculture, and other sectors.

The President maintains a sub-par Cabinet whose poor performance is poisoning the entire civil service with corrosive cynicism.

If the threat of default cannot force us to spend more prudently and seriously plan for economic growth, what will? What, really, is Kenya Kwanza’s economic agenda beyond avoiding default?

-The writer is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University