Lofty Madaraka speech but dubious economic evidence
By Patrick Muinde | June 3rd 2021
A Lofty 58th Madaraka speech, but there is dubiety on the supporting economic evidence
On a national day of the class of Madaraka day, the president’s speech must intelligently quantify the economic, social and political gains of his administration. Equally, it must cast a clear vision of the road ahead and action point to address the primary needs and concerns of the people in the immediate future and mid-term.
Unfortunately, the speech was ominously silent on combating the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and restoration of destroyed livelihoods.
Instead, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of supposedly great economic achievements of his administration. He drew curious comparisons on his eight-year economic gains to the 128 years since the colonial rule.
He also sought to draw our attention to the aspirations of our Founding Fathers and implored upon our generation to take up its responsibility for the next phase of growth and development. But his arguments on his economic philosophy, ‘Big push’ investments, restoration from poverty of dignity and focus on leadership as opposed to empty politics raises more questions than answers.
Recovery versus Acceleration
The economic acceleration maxim alluded to fails to speak substantively of the economics of growth and development.
Simply put, to argue that an increase of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from Sh6.4 billion at independence to Sh10.3 trillion presently is an economic miracle is not absolutely factual. The official statistics places the nominal GDP at Sh1.035 trillion in 2002, Sh4.261 trillion in 2012 and Sh9.740 trillion in 2019.
2002 and 2012 are the last full years in office for former presidents Moi and Kibaki respectively, while 2019 is the last year of updated official data and pre-Covid-19 economic shock.
The fallacy of absolute GDP figures is that: one, it doesn’t capture a lot of other economic parameters that explain growth and development; two, it does not tell us anything about the distribution of wealth at household level; three, it completely ignores fiscal responsibility; four, it glosses over the value for money in terms of purchasing power; and finally, it tells us nothing about the economic structures and policies to sustain growth and development.
For instance, while the speech glorified the GDP gains, it conveniently ignored all the fundamental questions and economic structures that sustainably support growth.
Public debt portfolio grew from Sh629.6 billion in December 2002 to Sh1.794 trillion in March 2013. These are the last months of president Moi and Kibaki in office respectively.
The debt has since risen to Sh7.352 trillion in January 2021, excluding the estimated over Sh3.4 trillion held in off-balance sheet by various state agencies. This suggests that the actual debt may actually be larger than the GDP.
The rant over the judicial decision on Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was disingenuous. A robust judicial system goes to the heart of the economy. It guarantees property rights, fair administration of justice in conflicts over economic transactions and fosters the sacredness of rule of law in nation building.
Administration of justice is a double-edged sword. The law is never meant to serve those holding positions of privilege, but to protect all from the inherent excesses of human greed.
The ‘Big push’ investments and restoration of poverty of dignity all suffer from the same malady. Only the privileged few who have access to power seem to experience this invisible economic miracle. Unlike in past speeches, there was no mention of confronting the demons of corruption.
Referencing from the three priorities of eradication of poverty, illiteracy and diseases at independence, millions across the nation cannot afford a meal a day and slums are growing. On the health front, the National Health Insurance Fund remains opaque and unaccountable on the billions it collects annually. Besides, we still do not know the ghost behind Managed Equipment Services and KEMSA heists.
Finally, on the question of political leadership, it is safe to argue that the comments were just meant to amuse the naïve. Aren’t we all witnesses to the greed, comedy and theatrics in our houses of representation?
Italian Jacobs wins men's 100m gold at Tokyo Olympics
- Olympics: Rotich and Korir reach 800m final as Saruni misses out
- Ferdinand Omanyala breaks national record, but fails to make finals
- Chepkoech, Kiyeng through to steeplechase final as Korir disqualified in 400m men heats
Missing student found dead at university grounds
- Raila agrees to share political party billions with Wiper, other parties
- Unknown people were tracking Wycliffe Omwenga
- Fanfare as Raila meets musicians
By Betty Njeru
- Letter from Ithanga: Murang’a’s unexploited agricultural Canaan
By XN Iraki
- The four options for Kalonzo in 2022 succession