Voters should choose wisely for the right tone at the top

Ballot box

Sealed ballot boxes. With the right leaders, everything will be all right. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Some of my favourite catchphrases in management thoughts are connecting the dots and walking the talk. But none beats tone at the top. Here is why.

You will often hear or read about policy disconnect. Others will say the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

Both are instances when policymakers and managers are not connecting the dots. It could be because we do not know how certain issues are related or we are making the wrong assumptions. Three examples should suffice.

Some politicians are surprised that citizens could be critical of the current administration, given the rather amazing strides in infrastructure. The by-passes in Nairobi are first-class, placing the green city in the sun miles ahead of its peers on the continent and beyond.

But the citizens’ complaint is whether the roads will translate into increases in real incomes. Such an increase can only happen if and only if there is an increase in productivity. So, what are possible sources of increased productivity? Mechanisation and ICT.

Mechanisation enables mass production, increasing the productivity of the individual farmer, artisan or small business a thousand-fold.

ICT creates efficiencies in production, distribution, financial intermediation and so on. Roads and other infrastructure enable the above to happen – for example by enabling better, more efficient logistics. The dot that has been missing is manufacturing!

We mean what we say

Walking the talk is about leaders preaching water and drinking water. That is, we mean what we say, and say what we mean. This helps us avoid policy disconnect. If we mean to bolster domestic production, we cannot also promote imported machinery or textiles.

Further, we cannot be pro-devolution and at the same time starve it of resources. We get into this argument all the time with my colleagues at the Treasury.

The Constitution demands that a minimum of 15 per cent of nationally raised revenues be shared out to counties. It does not mean what my colleague at the Treasury often says; that he cannot disburse because of revenue shortfall.

It means that if he collects one shilling, then he should disburse 15 cents. When he collects Sh10, he should disburse Sh1.5, and when it is Sh100, then Sh15 should go to the counties. As for my colleagues in politics, let us walk the talk!

Now to ‘tone at the top’. The reason it is the most important factor is that even when we connect the dots and walk the talk, ultimately, we tend to emulate the leader. If he steals , we feel justified to steal. If she disregards the law, we feel justified to disregard the law.

A recent letter to the public editor asked why I write this column. Well, it is one of my attempts to contribute to a better Kenya. Obviously, I’m happy that the letter writer reads it, or at the very least notices it.

My attempt is to persuade you so that, as Alvin Toffler wrote in Future Shock, you do not pretend to be surprised that choices have consequences.

If we do not want corrupt leaders, we should not elect them. Conversely, if we choose to elect them, we should not act surprised when they and the rest of government, at both levels, steal our land, and our taxes. Choose wisely.

@NdirituMuriithi is the Governor of Laikipia


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