Former President Mwai Kibaki. PHOTO/COURTESY

Mourn the National Social, Economic and Advisory Council. We should all do so.

During former President Mwai Kibaki’s formative days in power, a great idea was born. Kibaki realized that policy and development in Kenya was being driven in a haphazard manner.

At the time he came to power in 2003, Kenya was implementing 5 years development plans that were rolled out one after the other.

A consummate economist, Kibaki realized this concept could not propel the country into prosperity in the absence of a coherent development plan and strategy.

I don’t know whether Kibaki had thought of this idea when he was an active technocrat, at one time Minister for Finance or if he mooted the idea after ascending to the presidency.

Nonetheless, Kibaki didn’t waste time but quickly formed the economic Council ostensibly to advise him on the best strategies to deploy in order to drive development to the next level.

Vision 2030

The Council was to among other assignments drive the Vision 2030 strategy.

Many Kenyans may have forgotten but hardly a day passed without Vision 2030 and its pet programme, LAPSSET being in the news.

That as it may, Kibaki listened and acted upon the advice from the Council.

Kibaki could not have done otherwise after all the Council membership comprised drivers of the industry in Kenya.

The former president took his sweet time to choose who to sit on the Council and may, it was a very impressive membership.

Some of the members included Equity Bank boss, Dr. James Mwangi, industrialist Manu Chandaria, Safaricom boss Michael Joseph to name but a few.

The Council membership drew the participation of key bodies, such as KEPSA, KAM, COTU and a few others. In a nutshell, the Council had balanced representation, which enabled it to offer sound advice to the president besides intercoursing useful ideas with government technocrats.

Improved economy

To ask whether the Council served any useful purpose, the answer is evident in the many development projects that set the pace for Kenya to momentarily extricates itself from foreign aid assistance and overbearing external interference in its economic and financial matters.

Revenues increased tenfold, domestic and external debts became manageable and for a long time, Government-funded projects sprouted all over the country.

Indeed Kibaki reign could be described as the golden economic period since independence. It is during this period when the airwaves were liberalized, telephony freed from monopolistic tentacles and least but not least the ‘Hustlers’ received motorbikes.

For the first time, the common man started banking money instead of keeping the same under the mattress. The underlying philosophy informing Kibakieconomics was simply to target the common citizen as an important component of economic revival.

An active and satisfied ‘Hustler’ was a gem to Kibaki.

Whether by chance or design, the country witnessed a coherency in policy and development. Financial markets became disciplined, while the stock market flourished like never before.

By the time Kibaki was exiting the scene, Kenya’s external debt stood at 1.8Trillion. Today it is over 8Trillion.

Why did Kibaki achieve the impossible?

Closer scrutiny of members of the economic Council provides the answer. All of them represented industries that relied on common man consumption.

Equity Bank for instance, targeted low income earners, Chandaria Industries products are mass consumed, likewise, Safaricom products are common man-oriented.

Kibaki knew that those giants of the industry could not but advise him objectively and even though biased on the common man’s needs, that is where the heartbeat of the country’s economy was domiciled.

Suffice to state that this golden period witnessed many ordinary Kenyans jump the ranks into middle and upper-class status.

The economy boomed and with it the property market, private schools sprouted everywhere and indeed Kenyans became very optimistic people.

All that is gone!

For reasons that I am yet to understand, President Uhuru Kenyatta disbanded the economic Council and allowed technocrats to take its place.

The long and short of it is that technocrats have little interest for the masses. A closer look at policy and programmes post-Kibaki era paints a gloomy picture.

Big and not so big projects appear to be supply rather than demand-driven. The reason for this is simply technocrats must cut deals in such projects.

This is the difference in bias between the economic Council and technocrats.

The rain then started beating us!

Today I stand to be corrected if i say nine out of ten Kenyans are living a hand to mouth existence. Infact poverty is no longer a slum dweller or rural folks tale!

Incomes have dwindled to such extent very few Kenyans are able to save for anything.

In summary, whether you wish to believe the reason for our lean pockets is Covid-19, the truth of the matter is that we are done.

So my friends prepare for the worse.

I need one to convince me why I shouldn’t mourn the demise of Kibaki’s Social Economic and Advisory Council. May it Rest in Peace.

Kaunda wa Muchunku

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