Why Kenya Can’t Afford 22 Economic Disruption to Polls


Ideas & debate

Why Kenya Can’t Afford 22 Economic Disruption to Polls


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summary

  • The past elections have disappointed many mainly because of the socio-economic disruptions they cause, particularly for businesses and investments.
  • They disrupt critical focus on national development, discourage investment and divert vital resources.
  • Elections have often been violent, divisive, and hateful, and sometimes have resulted in raw, primitive hostility for no apparent reason, and this harms Kenya‘s national self-esteem.

The past elections have disappointed many mainly because of the socio-economic disruptions they cause, particularly for businesses and investments. They disrupt critical focus on national development, discourage investment and divert vital resources.

Elections have often been violent, divisive, and hateful, and sometimes have resulted in raw, primitive hostility for no apparent reason, and this harms Kenya’s national self-esteem. They hardly add any value.

For businesses and investors, the Kenyan elections are a key area of ​​risk analysis, usually defined as “country risk”.

Depending on the prevailing decibels in the elections, foreign investors on the Nairobi Stock Exchange are expected to offload their shares for about a year before elections, leading to dollar capital flight and a weakening of the national current account.

Longer-term foreign investment decisions are often postponed until after elections, mainly due to the unpredictability of the investment environment.

A few months before the elections, expatriates will be booking airline tickets, allegedly to take a long overdue vacation abroad.

The real reason is that they are running away from potential election violence. Incoming business travelers and tourists will also postpone their trips to Kenya.

About a year before the elections and a year after the government’s business and services slip into neutral gear, while heads turn to the elections, waiting for a new government to be formed and its priorities to be announced, whatever previous projects could completely fail.

Two years of every five-year election cycle are wasted waiting for the election and preparing a new agenda for the by-election.

That’s about 40 percent of the development time and opportunities lost. Kenya is therefore always playing catch-up with the rest of the world, and it will take much longer for the country to develop into an economic “tiger”.

What is truly unforgivable is how “war chests” are funded for the fight against elections. This is the saucepan of corruption as taxpayers’ money is used cunningly and corruptly to fund elections.

Politicians’ handouts to the public and churches are usually money withdrawn from public coffers.

Corruption and electoral politics have long been inextricably linked, making it difficult to eradicate corruption in public office. The implications here are that the economy will never get the full value out of taxpayers’ money.

Rather than being progressive and transformative, the Kenyan elections are often more terrifying than inspiring new generations, which is unfortunate.

Elections are usually not challenged on meaningful principles or serious manifestos because they are personality-centered rather than patriotic. Parties and alliances formed a few months before the elections cannot possibly produce credible manifestos.

The above is based on my observations of previous elections in Kenya, the first time I voted in 1969. Violence and corruption were largely absent from our nation’s early years, had developed in the 1990s, and became routine in almost all elections thereafter.

There is still plenty of time to ensure that the 2022 elections are calm and civilized with minimal socio-economic disruption.

The starting point is to make sure that the electoral authorities’ systems and capacities are adequate, and there is indeed much to be learned from previous inadequacies.

Conscious efforts are required to minimize the ethnic factor in our elections by forging diverse and inclusive political alliances and partnerships.

This seems to be happening with the formation of various groupings across the country that mediate political participation and turn away from hegemony that has often led to violence.

Yes, economic development and investment love continuity and loathe gaps and uncertainties.

The economy is still convalescing from the effects of Covid and cannot afford further disruption from elections. For this reason, the political elite must ensure that a peaceful transition can be ensured in order to protect the national economy.

We need to break with the past and make elections a process that everyone, including businesses, can look forward to.

For those creating economic manifestos, we need to go back to basics and restore full capacity in the productive sectors (agriculture, ranching, manufacturing, mining) as these have the greatest potential for jobs and national wealth creation.

These will use the infrastructure in which we have invested heavily.

About Sonia Martinez

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