Kenya’s Policy Dilemma in Perspective

Kenya’s Policy Dilemma in Perspective

Kenya’s Policy Dilemma in Perspective

By Sitati Wasilwa

An artist's impression of Nairobi under Vision 2030. Image: Courtesy

An artist’s impression of Nairobi under Vision 2030.
Image: Courtesy

If nearly all the socio-economic policies that have been formulated in Kenya since 1963 were to be fully implemented, there is no doubt that this country’s economy would feature among the newly industrialised economies not just in Africa but in the whole world.

The implementation of these policies would have translated to low levels of poverty in the country, enough food for all Kenyans, a vibrant manufacturing sector, a high number of formal job opportunities, a better healthcare system, a highly developed transport system, proper access to clean water among other positives that are associated with an economy that is undergoing structural transformation.

In evaluating and reviewing a good number of these policies, there is a consistent feature that clearly defines the policy process/cycle in the country; the aspect of policy dilemma. The policy process involves several stages with the most pronounced phases being policy formulation and policy implementation. The formulation of socio-economic and/or public policies involves the input of the various stakeholders and the implementation phase largely depends on the rate of efficiency of the government- ministries, agencies, state departments and institutions.

Policy dilemma, in this case, refers to how magnificent policies are formulated but implemented in a flawed and inconsistent manner. This has led to the recurrence of the socio-economic challenges/problems that bedevil the country creating a developmental scenario of making three steps ahead and five steps backwards. With reference to this, it is not a surprise that some of the challenges that faced the nation in the 70s, 80s and 90s have never been amicably solved.

Take for instance Kenya’s first comprehensive development blueprint, Sessional Paper No.10 of 1965: African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya. This policy document highlighted the course of action that was to be followed to steer the country’s nascent economy with the public sector and the private sector playing an important role in its implementation. Three challenges were to be solved by this policy; poverty, disease and ignorance implying on a large-scale that all Kenyans were to have access to affordable healthcare and education as well as better living standards. Several gains were made but its implementation was thwarted along the way by both internal and external forces.

Women fetching water from a river in Kenya, Photo: Courtesy

Women fetching water from a river in Kenya,
Photo: Courtesy

The current water shortage problem experienced in the country would be non-existent if most of the water policies that have been formulated over time were effectively implemented. The most notable policy initiative to solve the problem of access to clean and available water can be traced to 1974. During this year, there was the formulation and subsequent launch of the National Water Master Plan Initiative whose slogan was: Water for All by the Year 2000. The implementation of this policy never came to fruition.

In 1986, another policy paper was drafted; Sessional Paper No.1 of 1986 on Economic Management for Renewed Growth. This policy paper incorporated the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and it was formulated following the conditions issued by the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank & IMF) on the supposed economic restructuring the government was to adopt in return for financial assistance from these institutions.

This policy document addressed the following: market liberalisation, reduced role of the state in the economy, deregulation and privatisation of some of the state-owned enterprises. Since this policy was recommended by the Bretton Woods institutions, the government implemented nearly every bit of it and the outcomes were not pleasing at all; it did more harm than good. This was because its recommendations were based on the model of the USA economy and not on the local conditions that were prevalent in Kenya’s economy.

A Sessional Paper on the Micro and Small-scale Enterprises (MSEs) was formulated in 1992. The objective of this policy document was to transform the MSEs by institutionalising a high degree of formality in them as a larger percentage were operating informally in the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector at that time contributed approximately 30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and most of the Kenyans depended directly and indirectly on the sector for their source of livelihood.

What could be the scenario in case the Sessional Paper on the MSEs was fully implemented? A strong foundation for the manufacturing sector would be created as a result of the establishment of the agro-based industries, food production would have certainly increased hence making the country to be food secure, a high number of formal employment opportunities would have been created among many others.

A policy framework for achieving industrialisation by the year 2020 was developed in 1996 specifically known as Sessional Paper No.2 of 1996; Industrial Transformation to the Year 2020. The overarching objective of this policy paper was to develop a vibrant manufacturing sector in the country that would have enabled Kenya to be a newly industrialising economy.

The entrance to Kenya's Export Processing Zone at Athi River. Photo: Courtesy

The entrance to Kenya’s Export Processing Zone at Athi River.
Photo: Courtesy

The implementation of this policy framework was flawed largely due to the inherent institutional weaknesses and structural inconsistencies which some are inbuilt in the policy itself and others being explicit to the policy. Its total implementation, with the rectification of its weaknesses, would have steered the economy’s trajectory to be defined in terms of the structural transformation.

With the institutionalisation of the NARC administration in 2003, great attention was paid in reviving the country’s economy. To actualize this, a policy paper was formulated; the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation (ERS) for the period 2003 to 2007. This policy document envisaged an economic growth rate of 7% upon the completion of the five-year period in which it was to be implemented. In 2007, the country’s economy grew by 7% a clear indication that this policy framework was effectively implemented.

As the period of time for the implementation of the ERS was elapsing, the Sessional Paper No.10 of 2012 on Kenya’s Vision 2030 was designed. The main objective of the Vision 2030 is to transform the country into a middle-income economy by largely investing in the manufacturing sector and key infrastructural projects. The implementation of the Vision 2030 was to occur in phases denoted as the Medium-Term Plans (MTPs). The first MTP covered the period from 2008 to 2012, the second MTP from 2013 to 2017 and so on.

In as much as some significant progress is taking place especially in the construction of infrastructural projects, certain fundamentals have been ignored, for instance, the government hasn’t been largely committed to heavily invest in the manufacturing sector. Achieving the objectives of Vision 2030 remains a mirage considering how its implementation process is being executed.

Inconsistent & Flawed Implementation

Both internal and external forces have contributed to the failure of the holistic implementation of the policy frameworks formulated since independence. The major cause of the failure to fully implement these policy documents is the lack of a committed political leadership. The country’s political leadership has always focused on enriching itself at the expense of steering the country’s economy. Politics plays a crucial role in the implementation of the policy frameworks. All the administrations that have existed in Kenya starting from Jomo Kenyatta’s era have been rocked with massive corruption. However, Kibaki’s administration was more serious when it came to the implementation of national development blueprints compared to the others.

The urge to implement the policy proposals advocated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund without subjecting them to scrutiny has in one way led to the flawed implementation of such policies. Normally, the policies championed by the Bretton Woods institutions are ignorant of the prevailing circumstances in the developing economies and they are formulated in accordance with the model of the economy of the United States of America. These are two different and primarily distinct economic models. The challenge is the readiness to embrace the policy proposals of the Bretton Woods institutions and disregard the locally formulated ones.

An inbuilt weakness could also be responsible for the flawed implementation of the policy frameworks. It is highly possible that the formulation phase is executed with so many assumptions and errors. Definitely, the problem of insufficient data comes into play causing the data collection phase to majorly rely on guesswork creating a situation that is different from the reality on the ground. This ultimately leads to a disconnect between the formulation and implementation phases of the policy frameworks.

 

The implementation phase of the policy process is crucial and the failure to effectively execute it will not create the desired socio-economic transformation. Politics plays a significant role in this phase hence the need to have a visionary political leadership in place. Kenya’s lack of a visionary leadership coupled with the challenges of inadequate data and the pressure from the Bretton Woods institutions have collectively hindered the country from fully implementing the various policy frameworks, some of which I have highlighted in this article. With proper implementation of the policies, there is no doubt that most of the recurring problems in the country will be fully solved.

 

The writer is an Economist & Research Consultant at Savic Consultants, Nairobi.

 

 

A succinct description of the local policy challenges! This historical burden has obviously been passed down the ladder in the civil society over time. Political will/interests continues to set the agenda for the country and such, policy implementation is viewed in the light of ‘who gets the credit’? This can of course be seen with the current hullabaloo over ‘grand coalition vs jubilee’ projects, which is besides the point. We need mature politicians to focus on policy implementation rather than adolescent leaders keen on out-muscling each other by developing duplicate policy documents at huge taxpayers expense just to be seen to be working.

We’ll highlighted the use of guess work and not actual information on the ground when formulating policies. Public participation by the major players and stakeholders in a particular industry of focus not being given attention or even invited during formulation of policies yet they eventually play a bigger role in implementation. Corruption and lack of political will having not forgotten as the major saboteurs of the development.

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