Kenya: New Cabinet Line-Up Must Rejig Economy

14 January 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta stamped his authority as he announced a far-reaching Cabinet shake-up, signalling his intention to change the course of his administration. Serving his second and final term that ends in 2022, time is not on his side. The economy is flagging and service delivery appalling. Politics has taken centre stage and the country is being egged on to early and potentially rancorous campaigns.

This is the reason the reshuffle was inevitable. The President requires the right people in the right positions and with the temperament and aptitude to deliver on the government's agenda. Quite significantly, he outlined core priority areas this year.

First is economic rejuvenation and sustainability. All indicators in the past few years have pointed to worrying levels of economic decline. Whereas, on paper, last year was billed to have recorded economic growth, in reality, there were shocks. Several listed companies reported massive losses, unemployment soared and prices rose astronomically as the overall public debt portfolio spiralled. Infrastructure development stagnated as service delivery deteriorated. Fixing the economy is an existential imperative.

Secondly, President Kenyatta outlined a raft of measures to revitalise agriculture, especially cash crops such as tea and coffee. Discounting for weather, the agricultural sector is bedevilled with structural, legal and logistical hindrances that make it a vain enterprise. Vicious cartels that have run rings around farmers, bureaucratic practices, marketing and pricing challenges and corruption define the sector. Farmers are exploited and drained. Radical measures are required to turn around the sector.

Thirdly, and quite pertinent, is the President's pledge to renew and sustain the war on corruption. If there is anything that would define his legacy is how he deals with this vice. The administration has singled out itself as the most corrupt ever and erasing that tag requires decisive, ruthless and conclusive action. So far, several top officials have been arrested and charged in court but hardly convicted. The Judiciary must act quickly on corruption.

Fourthly, the President has to cool down political temperatures. Acrimonious debate obtaining over the Building Bridges Initiative does not augur well for the country. It is paradoxical that an initiative that was intended to resolve and end perennial political violence and conflicts has turned out to be a new battlefield.

Even so, President Kenyatta continued to expand and keep a bloated government that undermines his austerity pledge. The impact of the shake-up will only be felt if it translates into an improved economy and better services.

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