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No economic model can survive graft cartels

By Mike Nyagwoka | August 1st 2021

The greatest threat to our growth has nothing to do with bottom up or trickle-down economics. It has everything to do with our manners. Without tackling corruption, nepotism and tribalism, all economic models will be useless.

Little has not been tried in Kenya to equalise economic growth and improve condition of the masses. Historically, capitalistic models have been applied in many countries including Kenya and accentuated the gap between the elites and the masses, the rural areas and urban areas, and urbanisation and agriculture. The attempts to bridge these gaps have fueled the bottom-up economic models debate.

Aware of the disparities between urban and rural areas, a new strategy was adopted by the government in 1983. The District Focus for Rural Development was to enhance rural development through involvement of local interest groups such as self-help groups, cooperatives, churches and even political parties.

The programme in itself was an admission that indeed Kenya was a country of ‘10 millionaires and 10 million beggars’, as the late JM Kariuki had opined. It was also among initial attempts at decentralisation.

When former President Mwai Kibaki took power, he founded the Youth Enterprise Fund and the Women Enterprise Fund. Both were aimed at availing capital to youth and women. The two funds came a few years after the Constituency Development Fund, another attempt at sorting out inequalities.

In 2010, we created 47 county governments and 47 county assemblies with 1,450 wards becoming the smallest electoral units. This was another opportunity to address needs at the bottom. The Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 hoped to create a Ward Development Fund - another push towards the bottom.

Despite not being enthusiastic about the BBI process, the leader of the bottom-up movement, DP William Ruto seemed excited about the inclusion of article 11A which according to him was anchoring the hustler economics in the constitution.

The article partly states “(1) This Constitution recognises the need for an economic system that provides equitable opportunities for all Kenyans to benefit from economic growth in a comprehensive, fair and sustainable manner”.

So the new bottom-up economic model is not so new. The idea is to take a part of the government budget to a smaller unit. Ruto has already spoken of setting aside Sh100 million for each constituency. The worry is wherever the money shall be taken, thieves and cartels shall follow it there. When money was devolved to the counties, the corrupt followed it there. The Auditor General has previously raised queries on millions misused in procuring items of opulence rather than sorting out real needs like availing medical supplies to public health facilities.

A good economic model destroys the glass ceiling that prevents people at the bottom from rising up the ladder.

The writer is an anchor at Radio Maisha

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