The mainstream conversation surrounding the departure of President Mwai Kibaki revolves around the positive legacy of the country’s economy during his tenure. Most Kenyans rightly believe that the country is going through difficulties and there seems to be a slow response to deal with the sad reality that Kenya is at its lowest point in managing its economy amid rising of the cost of living. There is an urgent need to restart the economy amid rising public debt and the endless focus on political campaigning ahead of the August election.
Media inside and outside the country have praised President Kibaki as a man whose main legacy has been to lift Kenya’s struggling economy and put the nation on the right path to economic recovery. Successive administrations were expected to build on the milestones set under the Kibaki administration, but the current state of the economy seems to paint the opposite picture.
Kibaki and his administration have managed to turn around the country’s economy through well-intentioned macro and microeconomic policies focused on relieving the pain of ordinary citizens.
He will be remembered for reducing blatant borrowing from international players and instead focusing on well-regulated internal borrowing. The banking sector was reorganized under Kibaki’s rule thanks to an improved business environment. Bank lending rates were manageable and several banks proliferated locally and eventually entered international markets.
What has been the net effect of an improved business environment? With an improved economy and business environment, different sectors of the economy have created hundreds of thousands of new job and business opportunities.
More people were brought into the tax payment bracket. This increased the KRA’s internal collections, which enabled the national government to fund most of its projects without relying solely on international borrowing, sadly defining current development under the Jubilee administration.
Vision 2030, which was launched under Kibaki, remains the masterpiece of transforming Kenya into a middle-income country. Most of the capital-intensive projects concerning the improvement of road networks, access to quality education, access to good health services and huge investments in ICT and telecommunications have been designed and intended to be implemented during the reign of the late President. In recent times, senior government officials have said little about the progress made in implementing the flagship projects originally designed under the 2030 Vision.
The Kibaki administration was quick to respond to public outcry. The Kenyans talked about how Kibaki could have handled the current fuel crisis. Last year Kenyans paid more at the pump and the government seems to be fumbling in the dark on how to fix the problem for good. The citizens seem to be alone in their daily struggles.
In 2003, CNN described President Kibaki as “the man who took 1 million Kenyan children to primary school”. Kibaki will be remembered for opening access to basic education to millions of Kenyan children and adults.
Kimani Maruge appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest primary school student in the world, thanks to Kibaki’s education reforms. How to preserve and develop its heritage?
The government should ensure that access to basic needs like food and shelter are within reach of ordinary citizens. In my opinion, whenever access to food and shelter becomes a challenge, access to education will be relegated despite the constitution listing it as a basic right and need.
Finally, the late economist will be remembered for peacefully passing power to a new administration in 2017.
Mr. Nakhurenya is a public policy and legal analyst. [email protected]