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Time to face economic reality after choosing running mates

Volkswagens emblazed with portraits of Raila Odinga (left) and William Ruto in Kibarani, Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard] 

Kenya is now showing full-blown symptoms of a developed country. Beyond the mega projects, news nowadays ages fast. We are too busy to dwell on an issue when a new one crops up every day. 

The running mates have been chosen and its now old news. What next after running mates? Their picking, it seems, was a watershed moment as it cleared the political fog. 

When the winner is announced in August, barring any petitions, we shall realise why the choice of a running mate was so significant.

It was more like choosing a spouse who determines your future success – it does not matter how schooled, how rich, how poor or who you are. 

What else will matter in winning the August 9 polls? One is the games being played. Was Kalonzo Musyoka’s reluctance to join the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya stage-managed? Methinks so.

Does William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza have a counter move? How many Trojan horses are in each political camp?

Two is the timing. Did some political groupings start their journey to State House too early?

Exhausting themselves? Beyond running mates, what other cards are held close to the coalitions’ chests?

Three, State power and patience. While the new Constitution limited the powers of the president, he remains the most powerful leader.

He has ingeniously let the political fire of some groupings burn itself out.

Those who underestimated the power of the State will one day wake up from their unnecessary slumber.  

Four, who is in your coalition really matters. What do they bring to the table? What is their political baggage? How good are they at horse-trading? There could be other unforeseen events, but after the choice of the running mates, the race to the house on the hill looks more predictable. 

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga. [File, Standard]

Could the key agendas of the political groupings and their leaders make a difference?

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance has a ten-point manifesto.

Kenya Kwanza has its economic charters with 47 counties. The key contenders must now give us their agendas, concrete enough that we have had no problem waking up to vote at 4.00 am. They have been sharing snippets but they are too general.

But truth be told, the polls will be won through emotions and not logic.

Raila has his Sh6,000 monthly stipend to cushion vulnerable households. It’s unclear how that will not make us avoid work. Sh6,000 is 40 packets of unga (maize flour) each retailing at Sh150. The source of this money is taunted to come from the reduction in waste and corruption.

The Raila-Karua axis will have to reduce corruption. If there is one thing this group can make their legacy, it’s facing this vicious vice head-on. The same applies to their opponents. The Ruto-Gachagua ticket has its bottom-up model which seeks to uplift the lives of hustlers.

They even propose a “Hustler Fund.” Where will Sh100 billion for hustlers’ loans come from? The two contenders would love to avoid debt and higher taxes. They should be  clear about how they shall reduce our national debts without stopping the ongoing projects and defaulting or slowing down the economy.

The late President Mwai Kibaki and the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta have been very Keynesian. 

How will they avoid higher taxes if they do not want to borrow - both locally and externally? The easiest way is to reduce the government expenditure, particularly the wage bill – very easy in the textbooks.

Government employees make up less than two per cent of the population. Reducing the wage bill is a politically sensitive issue. Who do you send home?   At what political cost?

The next regime will dilly-dally with this issue. Remember the proposal to restructure State agencies?

And where will jobs being promised losers by both coalitions come from?

Beyond what we have heard from the key political contenders, what other agendas should they address?  A curious issue has hit headlines – single parenthood.

I have been a lonely voice in the desert on this issue.

It does not matter who wins, in August, the fact remains that a community or a country is as strong as its weakest family.

Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate DP William Ruto. [File, Standard]

No one is saying it loudly, but it’s targeting Central Kenya where single parenthood is almost the norm with the mother’s surname being standard for most children.

I would ask President Kenyatta to give this region a lasting legacy, better than highways and roads; reinstate the dignity and pride of this region by decreeing that none should use his mother’s name as a surname. 

Economics remains a  key focus of both sides of the political divide. This is another sign that at 59 years, our country has come of age.

Each party or coalition is trying to demonstrate how it will create jobs and uplift our standards of living or improve the economy.

To be simple, let’s ask them how they will manage the four factors of production. Land remains a sensitive political issue irrespective of who wins in August.

You have heard promises of resettlement and absent landlords.

Should the focus not be on how to make land more productive irrespective of its location and the weather? Why not put a limit to land subdivision and distil emotions away from land to remain what it is – a factor of production?

Labour is being addressed through job promises.

The quality of labour is more central if addressed through schooling and an incentive system. We need school graduates marketable beyond the borders.

Think of Indian computer scientists in Silicon Valley versus the mistreatment of our workers in the Gulf. Will the Competency-Based Curriculum which is framed as one of Jubilee’s legacy do the trick?