In many ways, the build-up to the general election has been different from previous years. Economic issues have taken centre-stage and all political formations project themselves as agents of economic liberation.
The question that begs an answer is; do the manifestos unveiled contain practical steps that will guide the country to harness its natural factors of production to generate wealth and prosperity? Or do they simply contain hollow proposals that will steer the country deeper into debt and unemployment?
Considering that land is the largest factor of production, and that Kenya’s geographical position gives it a competitive advantage in a number of areas, policies touching on land use have the potential to catapult the economy to higher performance.
The Azimio manifesto references land 39 times and among its promises is to continue with the ongoing digitisation of land records and operations. Indeed, digitising of land registries can bring about new efficiencies in land management.
The Kenya Kwanza manifesto makes 34 references to land with the most prominent commitment being establishment of the Settlement Fund similar to the one used to acquire land from settler farmers after independence. The land purchased by the scheme will be subject to land use planning where beneficiaries will own transferrable residential plots in planned settlement. The Roots Party has pledged to allocate significant acreage to cultivating marijuana. Agano manifesto has no policy proposal on land use.
Capital is another factor of production. Capital formation thrives in environments where access to credit is easy and affordable. The Azimio manifesto proposes the development of capital markets and positioning Kenya as a global financial centre that attracts foreign capital. In sharp contrast, the Kenya Kwanza manifesto appears more concerned with the ability for small business to access funding.
The idea of a Hustler Fund has been proposed and Kiambu gubernatorial candidate under Kenya Kwanza, Kimani Wamatangi, has gone one step further and proposed that the Hustler Fund be operated within a county-based bank - the Kiambu People’s Bank. As for the Agano party, they estimate that there is Sh15 trillion stolen and stashed abroad, which if returned, would be sufficient to drive economic activity.
On the issue of labour, none of the four manifestos makes any critical proposals touching on minimum wage. They also remain unclear on the techniques they shall use to monitor unemployment. However, the Azimio, Kenya Kwanza and Agano manifestos pledge a broad healthcare coverage coupled with a variation in social protection programmes. The Roots Party proposes a four-day work week making every Friday, Saturday and Sunday a holiday.
The last factor of production is entrepreneurship. The Azimio manifesto makes some big bets on manufacturing as a key driver of entrepreneurial activity. The Kenya Kwanza manifesto takes a broader approach to promoting entrepreneurship with some key proposals such as committing 5 per cent of the hustler fund (Sh2.5 billion per year to Kenyan ICT start-ups.
This is in addition to a broad allocation of capital to diverse groups such as women-led cooperatives, chamas and persons with disabilities. The Agano party promises to increase access to government procurement opportunities reservation for youth, women and persons living with disability quota to 40 percent, while the Roots Party makes no clear policy prescriptions on entrepreneurship. Voters ought to reflect and have a robust debate on which policy mix will usher in the 'Kenyan Dream'.