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As suffering grows, Kenyans nostalgic about Kibakinomics

More people were brought into the tax remittance bracket. [File, Standard]

The dominant conversation surrounding the departure of President Mwai Kibaki revolves around the positive legacy of the country’s economy during his tenure. Most Kenyans rightly feel that the country is going through hardship and there seems to be a slow response to address the sad reality that Kenya is at its lowest point in managing her economy amidst the rising cost of living. There is a need to urgently reboot the economy amidst the surging public debt and endless focus on political campaigns ahead of the August election.

The media within and outside the country praised President Kibaki as a man whose primary legacy was lifting Kenya’s battered economy and placing the Nation on the right path to economic recovery. It was expected that successive administrations would build on the milestones established under the Kibaki administration, but the current state of the economy appears to paint the opposite picture.

Kibaki and his administration managed to turn around the country’s economy through well-intentioned macro and microeconomic policies that were centred on alleviating the pain of ordinary citizens.

He will be remembered for cutting down blatant borrowing from international players and instead focusing on well regulated internal borrowing. The banking industry was rejigged during Kibaki's reign through an improved business environment. The lending rates for banks were manageable and several banks mushroomed locally and eventually penetrated international markets.

What was the net effect of an improved business environment? With an improved economy and business environment, different sectors within the economy created hundreds of thousands of new employment opportunities and business ventures.

More people were brought into the tax remittance bracket. This increased the KRA internal collections which in turn enabled the national government to fund most of her projects without solely relying on international borrowing sadly defining the present development under the Jubilee administration.

Vision 2030, which was launched under Kibaki, remains the masterpiece of turning Kenya into a middle income earning country. Most of the capital intensive projects around improving road networks, access to quality education, access to good health services, and huge investments in ICT and telecommunications were designed and earmarked for implementation during the reign of the late president. Lately, there has been little talk from top government officers about the progress made to implement flagship projects initially designed under Vision 2030.

The Kibaki administration was quick to respond to public outcries. Kenyans have been talking about how Kibaki could have handled the ongoing fuel crisis. The past year has seen Kenyans pay more at the pump and the government seems to be groping in the dark on how to conclusively address the problem. The citizens seem to be on their own in their day-to-day struggles.

In 2003, CNN described President Kibaki as 'the Man who took 1 million Kenyan kids to primary school.’ Kibaki will be remembered for opening up access to basic education for millions of Kenyan children and adults.

Kimani Maruge appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest primary school pupil in the world, courtesy of Kibaki's education reforms. How can we keep and grow his legacy?

The government should ensure that access to basic needs like food and shelter are within reach for ordinary citizens. In my considered view, whenever access to food and shelter becomes a challenge, then access to education will be relegated despite the Constitution listing it as a right and a basic need. 

Finally, we will remember the late economist for peacefully handing over power to a new administration in 2017.

Mr Nakhurenya is a public policy and legal analyst. [email protected]