The government has done a remarkable job of mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic — from lockdowns to a slow loosening of restrictions as vaccination gathers pace — in unprecedented circumstances .
But many governments, Kenya included, have operated with lower standards of consultation, transparency, oversight or control during Covid-19. This has gradually eroded trust and transparency, key to the good functioning of the nation and crucial for people to understand and comply with extraordinary measures.
An OECD report, “Government at a glance 2021”, explicitly indicates that, even with a boost in trust in governments sparked off by the pandemic last year, only 51 per cent of the residents trusted their government. Most people rallied behind their governments in adhering to the Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
But trust varies. OECD data shows that, on average, 72 per cent of the population trust the police, 49 per cent civil service, 37 per cent the government and a third Parliament. In 2018, less than half of the population in OECD countries, about 40 per cent, believed the political system allowed people to have a say in the government.
This trust in government might not last. One reason is mis- and disinformation, which hinder the public from engaging in communication characterised by facts and logic, moral respect and democratic inclusion. Another is lack of inclusion and diversity in the public workforce that supports the representation of young people, women and people living with disabilities in public life and policy consultation.
The government must urgently enact and fully implement policy frameworks that guide responses to mis- and dis-information and tackle false or misleading narratives. Two-way dialogue is necessary and may bear fruit.
Mr Ombane is an economist. [email protected]