NEWS GANG: The Joint State of the Nation - Dear Mr. President

YVONNE:

Over the last year and some months, we have seen the current administration lay out its plan for the country. Without doubt, the one issue that has plagued the country is the state of the economy and its effects on the cost of living. It has been a difficult year for Kenyans. From job losses, to increased cost of food and other essential items. In that time, we have seen and heard, in elaborate fashion, about the plan. The plan to get the country through the tough times we are living in. Indeed, we have learned of the equally tough space the government finds itself in, what with debt repayments falling due and squeezing them into a corner. That situation now coming to bear hard on Kenyans of all walks of life.

LINUS:

However, we have been long on debate, long on talks, long on arguments and Twitter banter about how we got here and who got us here. For some reason, we still seem stuck in the past, in some respects. Stuck in long-winded, verbose diagnosis about the problem, but short on solutions. Take for instance a recent Parliamentary session with Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya regarding the performance of the Kenya shilling against the major currencies. He made an astounding claim that the Kenya shilling had been artificially propped up by the previous administration. Yet that same man was in fact the Principal Secretary of the very National Treasury that he accused of giving the Kenya shilling a false sense of stability. It is a position he held for 6 years, that’s over 60% of the previous administration.

SAM:

You see, this is the problem with constantly looking into the rear-view mirror, you may encounter your own foibles, some of them literally in the face. In fact, controlling the behavior of a national currency falls squarely in the mandate of the Central Bank and the National Treasury. Individuals who ran these two key organs then, are in the current administration today. Yet, we see them heavy in heaping blame on the past officials. Folks, this is but one illustration of the rear-view mirror narrative and how in some ways it is akin to mutilating one’s own nose just to spite the face.

YVONNE:

So that we are not misunderstood, if you want to know where you are going, it is important to know where we have come from. But folks, there is a reason the windscreen is much larger than the rear-view mirror. It is time to look forward now. Whilst we encourage government officials to engage with citizens, it is surely not the place of these officials to engage in ad infinitum arguments in public spaces. And so tonight, we are sending the National Economic Advisory Council to think, rather than banter on social media. The one thing we have heard over the last year is the illustration of how dire the situation is and what caused it, now, we need to hear solutions and perhaps hear less of the solution and see the actions bearing fruit over the next 5 years. On the economy, state and public officials must now shift to that deeply deliberative, thoughtful and contemplative phase.

LINUS:

For the avoidance of doubt, one of our most precious resources in Kenya is human capital. We supply the region and the world. Just look around, there are great minds that can turn us around from our woes. Right now, what can cost us more and worse than our national debt, is bad or wrong decisions. And history demonstrates that politicians are highly capable of wrong decisions. A leader’s vision can turn into a nightmare, if not well thought through. And our scrapyard is teaming with evidence, including a one-time attempt to manufacture our own cars. And this is not to downplay the ongoing assembly of mobile phones locally.

SAM:

We also ask for coherence. We should not have Cabinet Secretaries competing to predict, how much worse things will get worse in the future. So, our next celebrated CS, should not be one that can predict that a litre of fuel for example will cost us, say, one thousand shillings a litre in 2025. Our leaders, of all levels, and more particularly those in the Cabinet are supposed to be solution providers not doomsday commentators.

YVONNE:

On living beyond our means, we yet again heard the President very clearly, earlier today, “The time has come, therefore, to retire the false comforts and illusory benefits of wasteful expenditure”. Consistently across the last 4 regimes, this kind of rhetoric sounds good. So let there be no doubt, this is not a new line. One government tried a good one on Kenyans by purportedly replacing fuel guzzlers with much cheaper Volkswagen saloon cars. All Kenyans know how that story ended. We often see that saloon car converted to a ceremonial ride during Budget Day.

LINUS:

So, it will be understood, if there are Kenyans out there who will be just a bit skeptical about that living beyond our means line. And why would they not be skeptical if simple things like the length of an official motorcade of nearly any official in this country, tells a different story. So, on that one, the President has some walking to do.

YVONNE:

We conclude now with a little take on legacies. Members of this administration have proved beyond doubt that legacies are about and entirely around one person; the President of the Republic. For everything that has been said about Uhuru Kenyatta the fourth President, more will be said about William Samoei Ruto, 5 or 10 years from now, by ironically people who are very close to him right now. So, to President Ruto, there is a legacy issue here for your personal attention.

LINUS:

Legacy is a lonely destination. So, take it this early, that when the chips come down, you are alone! If the plan fails, the first people to hang you will be your plan mates. Some will even spend an entire year after your term in office to vilify particular elements of the plan, whether its’s about debt repayment, taxes, affordable housing and don’t be surprised about that subsidised fertilizer.

SAM:

So, Mr. President, there is something Kenyans like saying on the street: Mapema ndio best!

Put your economic plan together and aim for clarity and coherence, considering the great amount of public skepticism that prevails currently. Get your economic team off the social media keyboards and deploy them to closed meeting rooms of government offices where some deep reflection and thoughts about turning around the economy should commence. From Treasury to the Central Bank, to State House and the ministries, send the right message on the management of the economy.

YVONNE:

Unlike other aspects of national politics, the economy is a more exacting space. Haina kubahatisha. And as you have seen in the last one year, the day of accountability is a lonely day for any President. That is our Take, Kicker and Sense rolled into one!

By Linus Kaikai, Yvonne Okwara, and Sam Gituku

Tags:

State of the Nation President William Ruto Economy

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