Politicking to stifle economy for three more years

Monday, January 25th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives the BBI report from the taskforce vice chair Adams Oloo at Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday. With them is ODM party leader Raila Odinga. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

Kenya’s economy faces a three-year hiatus due to high octane political activity.

This hiatus, which started in 2020 due to the entry of Covid-19 into the country, will stretch to at least 2023, when the political noise and tension dissipates after the 2022 General Election.

The year 2020 was very tough for Kenya’s economy because of the pandemic.

To control the spread of the disease, the government partially shut down the economy, affecting key sectors such as hospitality and the attendant tourism.

Demand fell off a cliff. Businesses either closed completely, or shut until further notice. Millions lost their jobs.

The sad thing was that the economy was just starting a strong recovery in 2019, coming off a highly contentious election in 2017 which had literally stalled businesses.  For all intents and purposes, the year 2020 was lost for the economy. 

This is 2021, and the key activity in the country is a proposed constitutional referendum.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader  Raila Odinga, have proposed a number of  constitutional amendments.

These amendments are borne of an agreement in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which was birthed by what came to be known as the “Handshake,” which ended the violent protests by the opposition disputing the 2017 election .

Already, the political drums have started, and the noise is rising. As expected, two camps have emerged, those for and against the amendments.

The referendum process has already started with the collection of signatures, which are already being verified by the electoral body. 

Financial constraints

The law states that a so-called popular initiative to amend the Constitution must be supported by at least a million voters, thus the signatures.

The referendum is expected in six months, and campaigns are already in high gear.

The two opposing teams are already barnstorming the country. This trend will become even more pronounced when the date of the referendum is announced. 

Funerals have now become  official campaign rallies, and the country is being treated to olitical rhetoric on almost a daily basis. 

Coupled with the fact that the Covid-19 restrictions are still in force, and there’s a spillover of the deceleration of 2020 into the new year, the omens for 2021 are not good at all.

Worse, the government is broke, and has very little legroom for the massive stimulus needed to kickstart the economy.

Government services are suffering because of financial constraints. Counties are grinding to a halt, and only received their allocation of three months in January 2021.

Suppliers to both the national and county governments, whose long delayed payments are unlikely to be settled, are staring at a bleak future.

If 2021 will be the year of noise, 2022 will be the year of cacophony. The General Election is due in August 2022, and the protagonists are using the proposed referendum to test their strengths.

It is expected that the fault lines of the referendum will reflect those of 2022.

That is why, in a way, the 2021 referendum is like a full dress rehearsal for the 2022 General Election. The country will see no let up in electioneering right through to 2022.

The end result is that 2020, 2021 and 2022 will be lost years for Kenya’s economy. Is there a possibility that this can change? Very Little.

What can Kenyans do? One, conserve resources. Do not spend what you don’t have to. Secondly, innovate.

This is going to be crucial for families and businesses to find ways of navigating the tough times ahead. 

Three, create. Think hard- what can you do differently, or even better. Thinking outside the box is now an imperative. And lastly, Kenyans must double their efforts.

As the economy tanks, more production can only be achieved with increased effort.

In the long term, Kenya must reflect very deeply and urgently on how it can disconnect its politics from the economy.

This is no longer just a five-year cycle. Kenyans do politics during and between elections.

The country must figure out how the economy can be insulated from political noise. It’s the only way out. [email protected]

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