With less than two years into President Kenyatta’s second and final term and three more to go, there is a marked difference in his style compared to the first.
He is more assertive and a little more decisive. The first term was dominated by the shadow of Deputy President William Ruto in his footsteps and, arguably, decision making, which is certainly much less so now. There were times when one could be mistaken into thinking that Mr Ruto was steering the ship even though President Kenyatta was the captain.
A noticeable effect of this change has been the President’s appointment of a much more professional team. There is a more technocratic feel to the Cabinet and other senior posts.
We review the progress of these appointees with a much more appraising eye with a number of them seen as go-getters and achievers who are certainly making their stewardship felt.
Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji is an example. Prof George Magoha’s brief tenure at the Education ministry has been marked by a skilled and knowledgeable handling of its onerous and complex affairs.
But will the President reinforce this stance with more professional appointments, particularly in dockets where there is a feeling that performance is below par?
The track record in economic policy is more mixed. On one hand, the reappointment of Dr Patrick Njoroge for a second term as Central Bank of Kenya Governor reinforces the government’s determination to continue the path of prudent monetary stability. But the fiscal side is less rosy.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is squeezed between a rock and a hard place. Much of his time has been spent spreading a thin layer of money over the national and county governments, most of it spent on salaries and wages while funds for actual goods and services are totally inadequate.
This has been a perennial challenge, but one can argue that not enough is being done to redress the imbalance. We’ve certainly seen stabs at it with the likes of Dr Fred Matiang’i, but not much of a trend running through government.
President Kenyatta’s first term was marked by a number of expensive flagship projects in the name of infrastructure-led investment. The most notable notoriety is the standard gauge railway, which has cost a veritable fortune to the extent of worsening our debt position significantly. It does not even pay its way on its day-to-day operation and is incomplete.
It can be argued that President Kenyatta’s second term is paying the price of this spending binge in his first and crowding out the ability for greater service delivery. That is the dilemma the administration has. Debt servicing and salaries and wages swallow most of the taxes and borrowed money.
This is a very tough nut to crack and it remains to be seen whether the President’s second term succeeds even marginally in this challenge. As things stand, the people of Kenya get poor value for money from their taxes and the money ostensibly borrowed on their behalf.
Then there is the cancer of corruption, which arguably robs the country of around three per cent of its annual growth; when we should be getting nine per cent, we only get six per cent. One should not just see this in terms of economic growth, but lost job opportunities, standard of living improvements and much less investment.
The international credit rating agency Moody’s recently argued that corruption in Kenya was, literally, turning away investors. It can be argued that it has robbed Kenya of that economic fillip and upturn that the country so desperately needs.
Yes, there is a more concerted attempt, at least, at stemming it than before, but it’s an open question if we are winning the war or a just few battles.
As Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, who died on July 1, told the President, he must pull all the stops on this one. Day in, day out, we waited for prosecutions for various mega scams. Will the latest arrests be the turning point or a false alarm?
The jury is still out on whether the President has walked his tough talk against corruption. Whichever way it goes, that will shape his legacy.
Mr Shaw is an economic and public policy analyst. [email protected]