Kibaki's last chance to shape economy
Posted Wednesday, June 13 2012 at 22:30
The Budget Speech to be delivered in Parliament on Thursday will bear special significance for President Kibaki.
It will not just be the last Budget during his 10 years as President, but it will also mark the final opportunity to reshape the economic landscape for a President, who rode to office touting his credentials as an economist and successful Finance minister.
President Kibaki served at the Treasury for a lengthy era from 1970 to 1978 — a period when the country enjoyed steady economic growth that earned him plaudits locally and internationally.
His campaign for the presidency was based largely on his promise to reverse the economic decline witnessed under the Moi regime and put the country back on the path of robust growth, prosperity and sound financial management.
Therefore, the last Budget under his two terms to be read on Thursday by new Finance Minister Njeru Githae, will also serve as a reflection on Kibakinomics.
A free economy marks the socio-economic legacy of the Kibaki administration, but opinion remains divided on his accomplishments.
“I think what he has done is to relatively strengthen institutions by giving them space to implement policies. The next President should build on this and put more emphasis on fighting corruption and streamlining the Judiciary,” University of Nairobi economist Joy Kiilu says.
The Kibaki administration will be best remembered for projects especially in infrastructural development and phenomenal growth in ICT, but also for failing to close the gap between the rich and poor.
To his credit, the development allocation has grown steadily, especially in roads and energy, setting a good foundation for future growth.
His landmark legacy remains the pro-poor free primary education launched in 2003 that allowed hundreds of thousands of under-privileged children to access school for the first time.
“One thing that stands out in the whole of his time is the free primary education. His administration has been able to refine it and make it work better, thus giving a good start to the working population,” Nairobi economist Robert Shaw says.
Free primary and secondary education earned the President the admiration of former US president Bill Clinton, who on learning that Kenya had been able to put over one million children in school, noted that the one man in the world he would like to meet was President Kibaki.
When the FPE was rolled out, an estimated 1.5 million children enrolled in various stages of education.
Critics, however, fault the programme for failing to put resources towards improving the quality of education by hiring adequate teachers and building new schools to ease crowding.
Other critics argue that FPE does not help the very poor. In a report done by HakiJamii titled: ‘Kenya’s budget allocation patterns for basic education in urban slums’, the NGO says that while three-quarters of families living in low-income formal settlement benefit from the free basic education, only half of those living in the slums take their children to public schools.
In the 2002 Budget, the last under the Moi regime, roads and energy received a mere 6.5 per cent of the total budget allocation.
This year, the Kibaki administration, having identified infrastructure as the engine of growth, allocated 20 per cent of the total budget to roads and energy development — five percentage points more than the previous government allocated overall in development expenditure.