President’s decisive moves welcome even in early days

President William Ruto with the newly sworn-in Court of Appeal Judges.

President William Ruto with the newly sworn-in Court of Appeal Judges from left Justices Joel Ngugi, Weldon Korir, Aggrey Muchelule and George Odunga at State House, Nairobi on September 14, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A tentative conclusion from the early directives given by President William Ruto is that he is a man in a hurry to make an impact and that he probably is going to be a lot more decisive than his immediate predecessor once his mind is made up on what option he chooses to take. These are welcome traits because way too many decisions need to be made in a hurry and indecision is not helpful in dealing with circumstances such as the country is facing.

The day one decision to appoint the six judges recommended for hiring by the Judicial Service Commission more than three years ago was particularly welcome since the former President should not have stood in the way of the recommendation, even disobeying several court orders to effect the JSC decision.

Conflicting emotions

The one to revert goods clearance services to the port of Mombasa has elicited conflicting emotions since as many oppose it as there are those that support it. It is an emotive issue and the President is well aware of the implications. But he had made a promise to the Coast people that he would do it.

Mombasa specifically and the coastal belt applauded heartily, but the move will also certainly hurt those that had honestly invested in opportunities that the inland container clearance infrastructure offered. Few will however sympathise with those who, using powerful offices and connections, had influenced the setting-up of the container depot in what is believed to be private land with the aim of unjustly reaping massive rewards.

All in all, implementation of the directive needs to be sensitive to fair concerns and to the need to limit losses to legitimate businesses and to the public. Serious amounts of taxpayer money have gone into putting up the infrastructure that may be rendered superfluous by the President’s directive.

The creation of a task force to receive views on the implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum education model is welcome because of the need to clarify many issues and complaints that have been raised about the rollout. Those quick to criticise the directive should pause because no one has said anything about rolling it back.

The fuel subsidy was always going to go and Kenyans must brace for much harder times before things improve. Rather, we should be spending more time proposing and critiquing measures that the new government can introduce quickly to shorten the time Kenyans will suffer.

Cushion wananchi

Is it possible, for instance, for Parliament to be asked to temporarily delay the Kenya Revenue Authority’s announced intent from October 1 to adjust upwards by 6.3 per cent the excise duty applicable on a range of products used by the majority of households? I am sure it is possible to do this and cushion wananchi for a while.

Many will commend the decision by the President to reduce the cost of a bag of fertiliser from Sh6,500 to Sh3,000, and also ensure that 1.4 million bags are also immediately available for purchase. But we also know that this is a subsidy-based short-term measure to ease an immediate challenge. It is not sustainable.

It will take a lot more for small-scale agriculture – which is what drives more than 85 per cent of the sector – to thrive and produce enough to feed the farmer and leave some extra income to fund other needs. The entire value chain – from farm preparation, to input, to crop management, to harvesting, post-harvest handling up to the marketing of the produce presents interlinked challenges that must be addressed.

Inimical cultural practices

Climate change uncertainties and inimical cultural practices in some communities simply complicate an already very complex problem. But long-term solutions exist and what has lacked is decisiveness and prioritisation.

Prioritisation, decisiveness and probably sabotage have also frustrated the implementation of an initiative that could be a game changer in the manufacturing sector. This is creating a legally enabling environment for the implementation of a Local Content Mechanism that could demand that over a period of time, all products manufactured for sale in this country, must contain a specified amount of local content.

Such a plan had been developed and presented to the past government by a local company, but it has never gone beyond positive feedback – hence the strong suspicion that sabotage may have a hand here. What is needed is a speedy implementation of the same. It is one solution the President’s team does not need to overthink and whose results are well documented.

Revive agriculture and boost manufacturing and you will be well on the way to improving the lives of Kenyans. Prioritise, be decisive and make your technocrats work. You can’t afford to fail in this, Mr. President.

Mr Mshindi, a former Editor-in-Chief of Nation Media Group, is now consulting. [email protected]; @TMshindi

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