For almost two decades, the governments of Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta have implemented major transportation infrastructure projects (roads, railways, ports, airports) and these have significantly expanded capacity for global, regional and local links critical to the Kenya’s economic expansion.
Many of these projects are in use, while others are being accelerated for completion before the Jubilee period ends. There are also those to be completed by the next government.
Debt service for past projects will use up a large chunk of the national budget in the coming years, so it is imperative that the next government critically evaluate budget priorities.
The following suggestions are for those who aspire to form the next government, and I am sure that they will soon be producing manifestos for their development plans.
The starting point for the new government next year is the acceptance that initially fiscal revenue will be significantly lower after most taxable opportunities have been exhausted, as a consequence of the IMF’s budget bailout conditions.
Incremental income to the KRA can only come from an expanding and well-managed economy, primarily from private equity and public-private partnerships, but these will need to be sufficiently motivated by facilitation policies. Of course, savings can be achieved by reducing wasteful public spending and corruption, but I doubt there are enough political guts to achieve this, which will be regrettable.
Initially faced with limited resources, development manifests may need to consider a shift of emphasis from transport infrastructure to a social development agenda that aims to significantly improve Kenya’s quality of life (education, health, family income, employment).
Currently, these are areas with visible gaps caused by pressure from a growing population, which continues to expand the national budget capacity.
A social agenda based on quality always has a high value in the satisfaction and happiness of citizens. Infrastructure development budgets should primarily target capacities and systems for the social agenda (educational facilities, hospitals, agricultural value chains, and SMEs).
With regard to education, the Jubilee government has undertaken major educational reforms, including expanding schooling. The next government should invest in capacity that ensures a sustainable quality of educational outcomes that compares with the best in the world.
Adequate and decent public school buildings; train and motivate teachers; and the provision of modern educational equipment will require priority funding.
The momentum for TVET initiated by the Jubilee government must be sustained, as it embarks on a rebalancing of what is clearly excessive university capacity to achieve quality employable outcomes. The ultimate measure of the success of higher education should be the number of easily employable (and self-employed) TVET and university graduates absorbed by the economy.
In the area of health, the ongoing NHIF capacity building must be adequately funded to expand citizens’ access to quality and affordable health care.
The public health infrastructure will need to be augmented with modern buildings and equipment. Private health service providers must be equally involved in capacity development. Excellence in the quality of health services can only be achieved if we have enough well-trained and motivated medical staff at all levels.
The ultimate success factor for the ability and excellence of medical care will be the small number of patients going abroad for specialized treatment. This should be a key objective for the next government.
The Jubilee government continues to pursue critical agricultural reforms (both institutional and regulatory). However, these reforms will need to be supported with adequate funding, especially for modern value chain infrastructure.
The revival and funding of world-class agricultural and livestock research should also be a priority issue for the next government. Agriculture is a key economic engine with a high capacity to increase employment and family income.
Other areas that the Jubilee government has developed in recent years include the capacity and economic participation systems of SMEs, an effort that must continue without interruption to provide employment to our TVET and university graduates, while creating a new basis for tax revenue.
Finally, there is an obligation for the next government to complete all ongoing infrastructure projects to achieve economic value from the funds already committed. Ongoing projects should not be allowed to become stagnant projects with no added value to the economy.