Major concerns and hopes as reality of challenges beckons

Monday July 17 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and his deputy William Ruto during the launch of Jubilee manifesto at Safaricom Kasarani Sports Centre in Nairobi on June 26, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and his deputy William Ruto during the launch of Jubilee manifesto at Safaricom Kasarani Sports Centre in Nairobi on June 26, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Thankfully, the silly season of manifestos is largely behind us.

Producing a manifesto is regarded as an obligatory part and parcel of a political party’s campaign.

Yet, in its true sense it is largely a wish list of hopes and hard material promises which in border on the unrealistic and completely unaffordable unless we were in the Kingdom of Brunei.

Take Jubilee’s promise to build half-a-million new homes each and every year or two-and-a-half million in a government’s term of office.

The obvious questions are how and with what financial resources, especially as every government struggles to provide even a modicum of basic services with what money it has.


Another is the National Super Alliance promise to build a four-lane super highway from Mombasa to Malaba at a cost of Sh500 billion.

The same questions about financial resources and the distortion of priorities arise.

Let us be honest we do not have the resources or the capacity for such gargantuan undertakings.

Dispensaries do not have adequate drugs and are often undermanned.


Primary school education alone is in need of more of literally everything except pupils.

So why promise something when such basics are in need of more resources?

A cynic would say that what was said and promised was an exercise in futility.

It sounds great and we would all love to be beneficiaries of it, but deep down we know they are largely empty promises and hot air based on a no foundation.


Even if a modicum of them was fulfilled then it would largely be at the expense of other obligations.

The budget would be spread even thinner and risk increasing operations and maintenance at the expensive of actual service delivery.

There is also another side to the circus, which is where the incumbent uses the opportunity to trumpet and chest-thump achievements even though some have more questions than answers.

The political arena is not short of its fair share of make believe as if many are playing a part in some fantasy that is removed from reality.


Some would argue that this is the world of politics and we should just put up with it.

But it is also essential to point out that such political promises and achievements should be based on a solid foundation rather than dream promises and straws in the wind.

I would argue that no one should underestimate the political savvy of Kenyans laced with that healthy cynicism.

If in doubt one should follow the cartoons in the dailies.


This is a timely opportunity for a reality check. A harsh reminder of this is just one statistic from the recently published report, The Jobs Gap:Making Inclusive growth work in Africa

It highlights several countries, including Kenya, that are struggling “to transform their economies fundamentally and generate inclusive growth”.

The reason being that policies “have often failed to coalesce around a single, workable plan for inclusive growth”.

Africa will face a shortfall of 50 million jobs by 2040, thus putting at risk the stability of some countries.


Even when we talk about the informal economy we should bear in mind in many cases it provides a livelihood based on bare necessities only.

This has been a tough year so far and promises to continue that way well into next year.

We need more realistic talk about how to manage the adversities such as the rising cost of living and insecurity.

We also need more realistic and practical approaches to at least slow down the dragons of corruption and bureaucracy.


This may not sound as exciting as promising goodies and sweeties that sound good but cannot be delivered.

But there is an argument that they strike much more resonance with many, many people than the hollow promises.

Political aspirants would be well-advised to go back to the roots of the basics of living and dwell there for a while so what they say and promise has a more practical and realistic feel to it.

Mr Shaw is a public policy and economic analyst: [email protected]