Why Kenya can’t afford the economic disruption of 22 polls

Ideas & Debate

Why Kenya can’t afford the economic disruption of 22 polls


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Summary

  • The past election seasons have especially disappointed many for the socio-economic disruptions they cause, especially for businesses and investments.
  • They interrupt critical attention to national development, scare away investment, while diverting critical resources.
  • The elections have often been violent, confrontational and hateful, at times gravitating into raw primitive animosity for no apparent logical reason, which shakes Kenya‘s national self-esteem.

The past election seasons have especially disappointed many for the socio-economic disruptions they cause, especially for businesses and investments. They interrupt critical attention to national development, scare away investment, while diverting critical resources.

The elections have often been violent, confrontational and hateful, at times gravitating into raw primitive animosity for no apparent logical reason, which shakes Kenya’s national self-esteem. They hardly add much value to the economy.

For businesses and investors, elections in Kenya are a key area of ​​risk analysis generally defined as “country risk”.

Depending on the prevailing electoral decibels, foreign investors in the Nairobi Stock Exchange will predictably offload their shares around a year for the election, leading to a flight of dollar capital and a weakening of the national current account.

Longer-term foreign investment decisions are often postponed after elections, mainly due to the unpredictability of the investment environment.

A few months before the elections, expatriates will book plane tickets to ostensibly leave for a long-awaited vacation abroad.

The real reason being that they are fleeing potential election violence. And inbound business visitors and tourists will also postpone their trips to Kenya.

About a year before the election and a year after, government business and services are shifting into high gear, as minds turn to elections and wait for the new government to form and announce its priorities. which can completely derail ongoing projects.

In each five-year electoral cycle, two years are wasted waiting for elections and preparing a new post-election agenda.

This represents about 40% of the lost development time and opportunities. This is why Kenya is still playing a game of catching up with the rest of the world, and why the country will take much longer to evolve into an economic ‘tiger’.

What is really unforgivable is how the “war coffers” are financed to fight against the elections. It is the boiling pot for corruption, as taxpayer money is cleverly and corruptedly siphoned off to finance elections.

Gifts from politicians to the public and to churches are usually money diverted from public coffers.

Corruption and elective politics have long been inseparable, making it difficult to eliminate corruption in public service. The implications here are that the economy never gets the full value for taxpayer dollars.

Instead of being progressive and transformational, Kenya’s elections often scare more than they inspire new generations, which is unfortunate.

Elections are generally not contested on meaningful principles or serious manifestos, as they tend to be more personality-centered than patriotic. The parties and alliances formed a few months before the elections can in no way draw up credible manifestos.

The above is based on my observations of past elections in Kenya, which I first voted for in 1969. Violence and corruption were mostly absent in our nation’s early years, having evolved over the years. 1990 and having become a routine in almost every election thereafter.

There is still plenty of time to ensure that the 2022 elections are calm and civilized with a minimum of socio-economic disruption.

The starting point is to ensure that the systems and capacities of electoral authorities are sufficient, and there is indeed a lot to be learned from previous shortcomings.

Deliberate efforts are needed to minimize the ethnic factor in our elections by forming diverse and inclusive political alliances and partnerships.

This seems to be happening with the formation of various groupings across the country, which has the effect of mediating political participation and avoiding the hegemony that has often led to violence.

Yes, economic development and investment love continuity and hate gaps and uncertainties.

The economy is still recovering from the impacts of Covid and cannot afford further election disruptions, and this is why the political elite must ensure that a peaceful transition can be secured to safeguard the national economy.

We must break with the past and make elections a process that everyone, including businesses, can hope for.

For those who draw up economic manifestos, we must go back to basics and recreate the full capacity of the productive sectors (agriculture, animal husbandry, manufacturing, mining) because they have the greatest potential for jobs and the creation of national wealth.

These will use the infrastructure in which we have invested heavily.

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About Bradley J. Bridges

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