If Treasury CS and Ndii say our economy is struggling, then it is

Economist David Ndii. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

During the 60th Jamhuri Day, President William Ruto, in a lengthy speech, reported that the country was on the right track and was rising economically.

He said, “I can now confirm that Kenya is safely out of the danger of debt distress and that our economy is on a stable footing.” 

The President’s statement contradicted the report by the Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung’u that the country was struggling to maintain fiscal stability. 

Dr Boni Khalwale, the Senator for Kakamega County, lauded President Ruto’s declaration on X. Senator Khalwale argued that Prof Ndung’u’s statement that the government was struggling was already “distressing”. So, what was distressing? Ndung’u’s statement on the status of the nation.

I think the distress emanated from Ndung’u’s exposure of the naked truth that the government was trying to cover. In any case, there is always a political way out of such bad news- blame either the former government or any ongoing global wars.

There are two interpretations of President Ruto’s rebuttal to CS Ndung’u’s expert opinion. Either the Treasury CS was right then, but in a few days, something happened or was done to put the country back on the rails. Or the country was on the wrong track and is still on the wrong track, but the government is on a PR spree.

The latter assumption is closer to the truth than the former because the country is evidently not out of the woods. Economists’ chief tasks are to precisely interpret situations and predict future economic conditions.

Their other task is to detect economic problems and offer potential solutions, especially on complicated economic trends that ordinary persons cannot see, and politicians refuse to see.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Kenya Kwanza government has these two expert economists: Prof Ndung’u and the chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Office of President David Ndii.

Dr Ndii is a dangerously honest, extroverted, and highly predictable economist-cum-activist. Handling his expert opinion sketchily can throw a spanner in the works. This alumnus of Oxford is among top African economists.

There is a reason why I think Dr Ndii, presumably refused to be appointed Cabinet Secretary or to be given some other public office in Kenya’s Kwanza government—he wanted to be ‘free to disco’ outside the box, even though later President Ruto engaged him and two others as ‘in attendance’ in his Cabinet.

Prof Ndung’u, on the other hand, is an expert economist who is an introvert. His track record and experience are his judges on economic matters. He is the eighth governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, a position he served in for eight years across Mwai Kibaki’s and Uhuru Kenyatta’s regimes.

In September this year, Dr Ndii opined that the economy of this country has a 50-50 chance of recovering in the next 10 years. Asked about Dr Ruto’s campaign promises to revive the economy within 100 days if elected, Dr Ndii wondered why we believed the then deputy president and his UDA brigade.

Therefore, if the two insider economic experts from Kenya Kwanza agree that things are not so good, the best the government can do is not to contradict them. Remember the proverb that the ears that refuse to hear accompany the head when it is chopped off?

Gone are the days when politicians and the government could cook data and facts for the public. Today, most citizens can access data on economic trends among other critical information regarding the nation’s status.

The President should listen to the experts even if what they say is not pleasing to the ears. The Bible that President Ruto likes wielding says in Proverbs chapter 11, verse 14, “People lose their way without wise leadership, but a nation succeeds and stands in victory when it has many good counsellors to guide it.”

-Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Kabarak University