This week I will steer away from the topic of the day; the upcoming Budget. Instead, I will focus on an issue that is no less important to Kenyans and which I remain passionate about.
As is routine, African leaders, corporate and political bigwigs have congregated in South Africa for the World Economic Forum on Africa. There have been other such forums around the world deliberating the global economic downturn.
Now is Africa’s turn to look for African solutions. The forum will provide opportunity for us to deliberate the changes, challenges and opportunities brought about by the crisis.
I am honoured to be taking part as a panellist in this forum which will be deliberating what exactly the right policy approaches to the crisis are for Africa. To this effect, I have pondered certain core economic issues.
I have asked myself: “If the price some developed countries have paid for promoting capitalism is to have their economy shrink by 40 percent, shouldn’t we be considering a different route? Might this be the time to promote economic nationalism, albeit for the period of the recession?”
What about economic patriotism? Shouldn’t we be promoting the Kenyan Brand? What stimulus packages should be implemented and how effective would they be in jumpstarting our economy?
I posed the question to my Facebook friends to ascertain what they think the right policy approach towards the crisis should be for Kenya. Of course there were a few usual ‘suspects’ who used humour to drive home that corruption is a big part of our problem. And perhaps, half the money that is lost to corruption could be used to provide social safety nets.
But more importantly, there was a common thread of sentiments that Kenyans are more interested in progressive action that promotes our competitiveness rather than the usual political rhetoric.
A number of contributors felt that the government should cut down unnecessary expenditure, and find ways of cushioning small businesses and the citizenry from high taxes and non-value adding practices.
Mr Ngugi pointed out that we should focus on insulating our backbone sectors such as agriculture through the use of subsidies, irrigation and small holder education to enhance food availability.
Yet another contributor felt that we should enhance the business environment. To quote Mr Karuri: “…Small business in Kenya doesn’t need stimulus packages, just an enabling environment to do business.”
Interestingly enough, another group expressed the sentiment that our government needs to be more innovative to get us out of this economic crunch. There is a suggestion to use the services of people with specialised expertise instead of popularly elected members of government.
But what also comes out clearly, is that Kenyans are tired of policies that do not promote equity. Kenya belongs to all of us and we should find ways to minimise the escalating divide between the poor and the rich.
I fear that if left to our own devices, we might retrogress to a slavery state of mind where the mighty continue to use the poor as objects of self-advancement, at their expense.
As I join other high profile Kenyan leaders in South Africa, I will be advocating three things: that we should realise sustainable solutions to our problems; that we should promote the use of home-grown solutions; and that we will begin to ensure more equal distribution of wealth and resources.
I will also be hoping that our leaders have heard the cry of Wanjiku and that they are more intent on finding her real solutions. Maybe these solutions will be reflected in the Budget later on. And no, this is not just wishful thinking… It is possible.
May God guide our leaders to put the welfare of Kenya before their own. Long Live Kenya!