Finishing strong on Vision 2030

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As we mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of Vision 2030, it is important to take stock and in so doing, be brutally honest about our successes and failures. This will help us maximize the remaining 12 years to the year 2030 in ensuring full realization of the Vision. The objective, it must be recalled, was to transform Kenya into a middle income and prosperous nation for all.

In a (recent?) article published by Ambassador Francis Muthaura – former head of the Public Service at the time of the crafting and launch of Vision 2030 – he detailed the genesis of Vision 2030 in sufficient enough detail not to warrant a rehash. I will instead focus on the implementation and its aftermath. To be sure, much progress has been made. First, we succeeded in articulating the Vision to all Kenyans and in focusing the entire government on its implementation.

Second, with the economic pillar – comprising Agriculture; Manufacturing, Trade; Tourism; ICT; Financial Services and later Oil, Gas & Mining – as the spearhead, various flagship projects were conceived and commenced in all these sectors as well as the enabling social and infrastructure sectors.

Third, the economic pillar was given a major boost by the promulgation of the Kenya Constitution 2010 which established the supremacy of the Kenyan people, devolved priorities from the national centre, more clearly delineated separation of powers and entrenched a robust bill of rights.

Where, then, have there been gaps? Clearly, implementation of Vision 2030 has not been as smooth or rapid as initially envisaged. While GDP growth grew, it never attained the targeted 10% annual rate. Not all projects have been completed to the required quality. There are lessons to be learnt then that can apply to the next 12 years to help us finish strong on the Vision.

Chief among these is the multifaceted cost of corruption and impunity. Where projects have been successfully implemented, there have been competent managers and an efficient husbanding of resources.

Poorly implemented projects have resulted from either incompetent managers or inefficient resource management or both. And at the root of incompetence or inefficiency or both is corruption and impunity! What is therefore required is resolute enforcement of and adherence to the rule of law by all – citizens, corporate actors, the executive branch of government (both national and devolved) and the legislature. Judicial rulings must be adhered to by all – exceptions for anyone, no matter how mighty or seemingly justified, are a dangerous path towards an irretrievable slippery slope. On its part, the judiciary must significantly up its game in the interpretation of the law and the constitution, building necessary capacity within its ranks to serve as the final arbiter of the law without bottlenecking the economy or unwittingly undermining national security.

The current push to address corruption, spearheaded by the President himself, is a crucial shot in the arm for the long-term efforts to curb the theft of taxpayer resources. I applaud the President and urge him to be relentless against wanton theft, but more so impunity.

However, we need a sustainable solution to the theft of public resources that goes beyond the commitment of a single individual or regime. Rather, the institutions in place to address these vices must be made functional.

While we applaud the current zeal and activity at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the very fact that there is excitement about these actions is an indictment of these institutions. These agencies must reform and now begin to justify their existence on taxpayer resources. By not doing their job daily and merely subjecting us to periodic bursts of ad hoc PR exercises, they are themselves engaging in the very corruption they are paid and facilitated to prevent and punish!

Institutional reforms beyond the executive will also be necessary. Indeed, the National Commission on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) which brings together the Judiciary, the Police, CID, Attorney General, the DPP, EACC and Prisons need to get their act together.

And beyond the jurisprudential and security services, we require a credible and competent Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission that is able to deliver demonstrably credible elections. The shaky 5-year election cycle remains a major obstacle to the continuous implementation of Vision 2030, constantly breaking whatever momentum is built within the 5-year medium term plan cycles. Parliament must also undertake the necessary capacity -building to ensure that it discharges its constitutional obligations of representation, legislation and oversight (and particularly the latter) more effectively. It is not clear to what use Parliament puts the reports of the Auditor General which often have presaged the avalanche of damning scandals now publicly laid bare.

Building institutions and promoting the rule of law promotes a meritorious system that ensures the most competent and able people are in the right places and also ensures efficiency. Competent people working in efficient systems are more likely to value their reputations and their long-term success more highly than short term, illicit personal gain.

As I conclude, let me comment on a current and germane issue. As we debate the 2017/18 financial year budget, we must be careful not to institute harmful taxation policies. The proposal to hike income and corporate tax by an additional five percent and to increase capital gains by a whopping fifteen percent would even in the most prosperous of times be a bad idea. Rather than widen the net, it punishes and disincentives good actors – those who actually, work, produce and declare their income. Given the incontrovertible evidence of rampant corruption – more aptly theft of taxpayer funds – the timing for hiking taxes could not have been more inopportune! A system so insensitive to good actors working three and a half months of the year for the government only to see their hard-earned taxes looted by non-producers can only lead to more tax evasion, while having a chilling effect on economic innovation and productivity and therefore Vision 2030.

Kibati, is a former Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat (VDS) Director General

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