WAINAINA: Rethink governance to grow economy - Daily Nation

Rethink governance to grow economy

Tuesday March 20 2018

Kenya budget

National Treasury CS Henry Rotich holding a briefcase containing the 2017/2018 budget statement. Kenyans should demand balanced budgets and prudent public spending with no sacred cows or ring-fencing of departmental budgets and also that government programmes and spending be cut before increasing taxes. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Kenya has lived in denial of a narrow economic policy crisis and always painted a rosy picture of growth.

It seems to lack leadership with courage, vision and political conviction to accept the nature of its economic policy and instead chooses the easy pacifying route.

The government knows the depth of corruption and inflated payments of goods and services within but has adamantly refused to purge graft. It keeps skirting this fact and inventing rhetoric to avoid tackling it head-on.


Our political system is criminally corrupt: It is about looting and plundering national wealth and resources.

It does not produce, expand and grow the economy but extracts what is available.

Sadly, leadership with the foresight and will to challenge this tradition remains elusive.

The public has been demanding an end to irresponsible and corrupt public finance management but the political system has been intransigent in response.


Top political leadership must purge corruption and reduce deficit. It is time the government shed its own fat before spreading its hands to taxpayers.

The Constitution is not the problem; it is failure to bring all government systems, institutions and processes in tandem with it.

Kenyans should demand balanced budgets and prudent public spending with no sacred cows or ring-fencing of departmental budgets and also that government programmes and spending be cut before increasing taxes.

Further, it is important to streamline the national planning policy to put county plans at the heart of development and growth with greater devolution of power and resources with stringent accountability.

The counties need to be remarkably effective at instigating and delivering mega projects.

This would create jobs, help businesses to flourish and allow active exploration of opportunities to deliver new infrastructure programmes levering investment from pension funds, attracting inward investment and pursuing greater freedom to be active in the bond markets.

There has to be a crystal-clear vision of the role of the government in the economy with political conviction and determination to act and the following immediate measures suffice.

First, rationalise and peg public officers’ earnings on performance and productivity and ensure no official is in private employ.

Secondly, effectively and substantially reduce the cost of government. There are many unnecessary governmental agencies and parastatals.

The government must bite the bullet. It is people who produce the goods and services.

Thirdly, the governance system must be drastically rationalised, restructured and harmonised to accord with and respect devolution, streamlining machinery, reducing size and trimming costs. The public sector is nothing more than an overhead; it does not add to the economy. It is a burden.


Fourth, the government should focus only on things that are within its purview.

A significant number of government personnel and resources are diverted to non-productive activities — such as using its size and power to snoop on citizens rather than emancipate them through superior education, healthcare, security and such other critical social services.

Fifth, redefine economic and social policy to invest in counties to expand, diversify and build a technologically innovative, knowledge-based more equitable and inclusive economy.


Sixth, make corruption in government the most punitive venture.

A large public sector inhibits development of a vibrant private sector and government-linked agencies actively compete with and stunt development.

Finally, redefine and transform the civil service into a highly productive, innovative, responsive and objective one that competently supports the well-being and prosperity of the country and turn the development vector from a narrow, consumption-based economy into a broad, well-grounded knowledge investment-oriented one.

With a new constitutional order, adoption of a devolved system of governance and service delivery, together with escalating global competition, Kenya should build a civil service based on professionalism, efficiency and integrity with a high standard of discipline, skills and accountability.

Such a civil service is the transforming and propelling engine for advancement of the country’s economics, security and governance.


Mr Wainaina is executive director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict. Email:[email protected] Twitter: @NdunguWainaina