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DP ditches Uhuru’s economic policies

By Jacob Ng’etich | May 3rd 2021
Deputy President William Ruto consulting with Economist David Ndii, MPs Kimani Ichungwah (Kikuyu), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), and John Kiarie (Dagoretti South). [DPPS, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto signalled a major departure from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s economic model when he rolled out one that seeks to steer away from the nine years of Jubilee government economic decisions.

Keen to tap into the poor, rural folk and the unemployed, Dr Ruto said he would lead a conversation that would culminate in a national economic charter that embodies aspirations of Kenyans at the grassroots. His bottom-up approach, however, drew reactions from politicians and economists who spoke to The Standard, with some chiding him for not implementing it now that he is in government.

In a statement he released after a three-day retreat with representatives from Mount Kenya, Ruto said: “This is the new conversation. This is the new politics.”

The gist of his model is “the empowerment of small businesses, increasing farmers’ earnings and creating an enabling environment that rewards hard work, nurtures creativity and promotes initiative for all to flourish.”

“To ensure that an all-inclusive conversation takes root, we have agreed on a framework of engagement beginning at the grassroots with farmers, entrepreneurs, traders, cooperatives, other producers and business associations encompassing all the key agricultural value chains in particular tea, coffee, dairy, fresh produce, rice and miraa,” Ruto said.

Already the DP has engaged former president Mwai Kibaki’s economic think-tank to steer his ‘bottom up’ economic model, indicating that if elected in the 2022 General Election he will seek to efface or neuter the 10 years of Uhuru’s economic decisions.

Karuti Kanyinga says whereas the model sounds good, as it would factor in people in the low levels, there is need to rope in small industries countrywide to create employment opportunities.

DP William Ruto addresses mourners during the burial of Abel Gongera, the father of Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, on February 2, 2021. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

He, however, says the problem with Kenyan politicians is using flowery language to win votes, but then forget the voters after victory.

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“Politicians in Kenya work for three and a half years, the rest they politic. Most do not have bigger visions. Kibaki is perhaps the remnant of the 1963 politicians who had put Kenya first,” said Prof Kanyinga.

Paying debts

Former Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow concurs with the Kanyinga. He says the model is good, but the hidden details will be in government policies and budgets.

“It is possible to have a policy to support the small enterprises, including credit guarantees. Eighty per cent of Kenyan adults operate on the informal sector and such a move will put money in their pockets, but it all depends on the details,” he told The Standard yesterday.

Mr Kerrow says Uhuru’s economics are grandiose and misplaced, with little trickle-down effect, and that every little funds now go into paying debts, which do not have much impact on the country.

But Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said it was unfortunate that Ruto and his team had some brilliant ideas on empowerment but were discussing what they would do post-2022.

“But they are still in this government! We pray that they will share all these good ideas they are talking about with the current government that the Deputy President serves in today. There is no guarantee that they will be elected post-2022. So this is when they can implement what they are suggesting. And they have time and the office,” said Mr Wambugu.

He said the DP appeared to be suggesting that he had no faith in the current economic model championed by the President, since he is meeting independent economic advisors rather than those from the Treasury.

Deputy President William Ruto at House of Hope Church in Kayole, Nairobi. January 10, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

After the engagement with leaders from 11 Mt Kenya counties, other planned retreats will bring together the rest of the regions and sectors of the economy.

“We have planned similar engagements and consultations with Western, Northern, Coast, Nairobi, Eastern, Nyanza and Rift Valley regions,” Ruto said.

He said the talks would culminate in a national economic charter that embodies aspirations and commitments to Kenyans at the grassroots.

Scholars, professionals, business and community leaders – will be brought on board in the national engagement.

It is curious that having been elected together with Uhuru in 2013 and 2017, Ruto is taking on the government, accusing it of excluding 10 million Kenyans who form a majority of the national workforce.

“A country that leaves half its people behind cannot go far. To get these 10 million Kenyans out of the rut, a new approach is not only necessary and desirable; it is an existential imperative,” he said. 

Ruto warned that Uhuru’s leadership model, which is heavy on investment in infrastructure, would not be realised if the potential of “hustlers” was not harnessed. “We know from experience of other countries that if we do not seize this moment, this potential demographic dividend can easily flip into a demographic catastrophe,” he said.

“This is a journey we must start now - a mission to board Kenyans at the bottom of the pyramid and those pushed to the fringes onto an economic train that provides upward mobility for everyone-the novel bottom-up economic model,” he said.

Deputy President William Ruto at Chergei area in Kabarak, Nakuru county on October 2, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The DP said from the experience of the past nine years and building on the foundation that had been laid, it was necessary to progress in fundamental conversations about the hustlers - traders, boda boda operators, mama mboga, farmers, pastoralists, wheelbarrow users, taxi-drivers and hand cart owners, among others.

“We must engineer a fundamental paradigm shift from the perennial politics of personalities, positions, and power to a candid, open, and frank engagement with the people on the economy, their aspirations and their future,” he said.

Samwel Nyandemo, a Development Economics and a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Economics department said many governments since independence had implemented a screwed development agenda, and Ruto’s model of bottom-up made sense.

“Ruto has assembled experts and his ideas are positive if implemented. The only problem is if he fails to implement them,” said Dr Nyandemo.

He said Uhuru had zeroed in on crowded economic agendas around infrastructure without ensuring there was proper linkage on its impact on the poor people.

Economist XN Iraki said the bottom-up economy would require an ecosystem that would change government policies, and a bit of patriotism to pick up.

He said the model would easily gain traction if many Kenyans embraced entrepreneurship as opposed to employment. “Most Kenyans are always eager to get employed. Even the bodaboda and those in small business do that because they have not got a job. This will have to change for the trickle-up model to succeed,” said Iraki.

He said the Uhurunomics was an extension of Kibakiconomics of building infrastructure as part of long-term by building power, highways, sea, and airports.

 “The only problem with the Uhuru’s government has been corruption,” said Iraki.


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