This paper intends to discuss economic and political issues in the Kenyan situation. Since we got our independence in 1963, we have always operated on political, economic and social structures that have only served to stagnate our economy, promote ethnically based politics, and we have never looked into the possible ways of promoting the holistic growth of this country with respect to all these challenges. This paper explains key recommendations that I, as the minister for planning with the contributions of my officials, have laid down to guide the economic and political progress for the next ten year period and beyond. It explains the possible measures that if taken, we will be able to achieve economic development and create a just nation for all citizens.
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Changing the country’s economic and political structures
The economic growth rate of our nation has been fluctuating, and for this reason we have not been able to achieve our targets as set out in our strategic plan for the past ten year period. The reasons are due to unpredictable political activities which some times have led the nation into a civil strife thereby scaring away foreign investors and creating fear and hatred amongst citizens, overdependence on rain fed agriculture; the rains have become both unpredictable and unreliable hence the continuous food shortage in most parts of the country (International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2003). We as a nation have not put sufficient investment in scientific research that should go a long way in improving the county’s innovations and discoveries. Due to all these shortcomings the ministry of planning has established strategies that will help us regain economic growth and political democracy (Udogu, 1997).
For the past eight years, our country’s GDP growth rate has been on fluctuation mode. In 2003, the growth rate was 1%, it increased to 2% in 2004 and 2005, then in 2006 and 2007 it enhanced to 6%. In 2008 it reached a peak at 7% before dropping down again to 2% in 2008. The drop from 7% to 2% between 2007 and 2008 can be explained by the political violence that emerged after the disputed 2007 general elections (Index Mundi, 2009). During this period the prices of basic commodities skyrocketed, economic activities slowed down and therefore, our nation’s GDP reduced. My ministry for planning has come up with certain strategies that will help us get our economy to progressive growth rates of 7% and then thereafter target a two figure growth rate. As a ministry we have recommended that our country should explore more industrial related economic activities to produce more goods and services for export market. This will divert our economy from being over-reliant on agricultural exports which accounts for 21% to the GDP. This is a good percentage contribution. It is also important to note that with the current global warming and weather conditions becoming more unpredictable, the agricultural sector is not likely to be sufficiently productive and therefore the 21% contribution is not guaranteed for ever. This fact is supported by world Agroforestry report of 2006 (New Standpoints, 2006). The ministry proposes to initiate water harvesting projects whereby big man-made dams will be constructed to store water for irrigation. The farmers in arid and semi-arid areas should also be expected to concentrate on growing drought evasive crops; for high quality crop harvest, the government should provide all farmers with seeds and fertilizers at subsidized rates. To ensure that our nation reduces her overdependence on agriculture, as a minister I have suggested that most government owned corporations be privatized and the private sector be given incentives to grow. This will encourage innovation and healthy competitions within the sector; it will also improve the quality of goods and services that we export to the foreign markets (Florio, 2007). I also advise that foreign oil mining companies be contracted to engage in oil explorations in the Northern Eastern province of our country. I believe that we are able to produce our own sources of energy and reduce the amount of our oil and gas export. Producing our own oil will benefit our citizens with cheap fuel and energy products.
We have also proposed to reduce our foreign debt burden. The country’s foreign debt now stands at approximately $10 billion (Eurodad, 2005); the repayment of this foreign debt together with domestic one costs Kenya above 30% of the yearly budget. The ministry has set augmentation goals to reduce its over-dependent on debts. Our ultimate objective is to achieve a steady reduction in the ration of government debt to GDP. This will include some intermediate steps to reducing the primary debt balance to zero. This we can achieve by ensuring that different ministries will have maximum amount of funds request reduced to appropriate levels. To help achieve this, our GDP should have surplus production. Our main sources of borrowed funds are the World Bank, International Monetary Funds, and the developed nations. My ministry has proposed that IMF should offer Kenya debt relief of specific amounts so that we can concentrate our limited resource on meeting the millennium development goals and fund other government projects meant to reduce poverty in our country. We shall also seek to have talks with the IMF and the World Bank officials to increase our debt servicing period so that we do not spend much on servicing foreign debts. We plan to raise the domestic taxes on basic goods and services by 10% and luxury goods like cigarettes and alcoholic drinks by 20%. This will help the government generate more revenues to fund its projects.
Politics is one of the determinant factors of the status of our economy. Political instability has been one of the major factors that have contributed to economic slowdown in our country; evidently there have been political related conflicts whose consequences are the destruction of property, businesses, and loss of lives and most important to our economy it scares away foreign investments. For us to reach a target economic growth rate of 7% and above, it is important to have a political system and climate that will attract foreign direct investments into the country (Azam, 1999). To achieve this, we should have a democratic political system in which elections are done with a lot of transparency. In the light of the 2007 post election violence, I recommend that the current electoral body be disbanded and replaced with one that is independent and will not be subject to political manipulation; besides, we should adopt electronic voter registration to make efficient our election processes. I have also proposed that a special tribunal be set to handle any election disputes within three months after any election. The tribunal should be given prosecutorial powers to legally take actions against those involved in electoral irregularity. With these measures in place, there will not be post-election conflicts. This in turn will ensure that any political disputes do not interfere with the economic activities in the country.
Our country is now a multi-party state; there are many political parties, most of which are ethnically oriented, and this has cost us, as a nation, in terms of peace and unity (Countries and Their Cultures, 2010). We all recognize the dangers associated with this scenario; I have come up with the idea that the number of political parties be reduced to two through an act of parliament. This will reduce the problems associated with coalition governments; in this case, between the two parties only the winning one forms the government and the other forms a vibrant opposition. Having more than one party forming the government brings in parties with divergent policy orientations that will always hurt our economic and political system. The president is always the leader of the governing party and appoints his ministers and assistant minister from the same party; I recommend that members of parliament and other personalities who have been mentioned in grant corruptions be excluded from government appointments. This will make it easy for the government to fight corruption and prosecute the culprits.
The advancement of an economy depends so much on the level of innovation in the country. For us to achieve desired economic growth, we must emphasize our investment in the education sector. When the level of literacy increases in the nation the level of innovation also increases. In response to this, I have come up with certain plans: from the next fiscal year the government should increase funds meant for education sector, from which 15% should specifically be allocated to research and innovation. In the long run our economy will benefit from improved products and services and we will also increase the level of literacy of this nation. I acknowledge the fact that the government has introduced free primary education that has benefited many children who had dropped out due to lack of school fees (Fox, 2006). However, notably, the cost of education at secondary level remains unaffordable to many students. It will be of no economic benefit to offer free education at a level that individuals do not gain any skills and let them drop out at a crucial level where they are most likely to gain entry into middle level colleges. To prepare students for institutions of higher learning I have recommended that the government reintroduce payment of subsidized school fees in primary school; the subsidy should be in the form of meeting stationeries requirements in all public schools, then the government to introduce subsidized learning at high school level. This will create a Kenyan society where the literacy rate is high.
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The environment is one of the most important parts of our lives. Everything we do depends so much on the environment. Unfortunately, in the process of undertaking economic activities we degrade the environment. With the constant pollution, the environment has suddenly become a scarce resource that requires economic intervention. Our country can ensure that cost of solving environmental problems and benefits of it are balanced. The degradation of the environment has the effects of contributing to global warming which actually has worldwide effects on economies (Gay, 1996). To protect the environment my ministry has therefore; found it necessary to come up with recommendations for policy change. I recommend that our environmental policies be modified in such a manner that they are consistent with the United Nation’s environmental policies; we should also come up with recommendations for environmental policies: the government should have a tax levy on heavy industries that inject greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, all vehicles on the road must have efficient combustion of fuel in their engines, the government should also come up with a policy of rewarding industries committed to cleaning and protecting the environment and also there should be a well developed curriculum to be used in teaching about environmental issues in all levels of academic institutions. The government should also increase taxes on polythene paper bags by 200% to make them expensive and hence reduce overuse and dumping; and again, every city council should be authorized to form bylaws that require anybody who carelessly handles or improperly dispose off polythene papers to be fined a fee of not less than two thousand Kenya shillings.
I strongly believe that Kenya has the capacity to achieve all the above recommendations. If well implemented our nation will definitely regain and improve its economic growth rate and development, achieve political democracy, and foster peace love and unity amongst all Kenyans irrespective of ethnic and religious orientation (Udogu, 1997).
We may always have good plans for our country but we must be ready to face challenges and opposition from fellow citizens who may not agree with our strategies. It is a fact that there are some leaders and public members who will be opposed to some of these recommendations, especially on the reduction of the number of political parties from the current over one hundred and sixty to two and activities of planned oil exploration. Some of the challenges these recommendations are likely to face include lack of good will from certain government officials, lack of sufficient financing like in the case of oil exploration in the province of North East and the tight government bureaucracy in our government system.
Azam, J. (1999). Conflict and Growth in Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Countries and Their Cultures. (2010). Culture of Kenya Forum. Web.
Eurodad. (2005). European Network in Debt and Development. A case for debt relief for Kenya. Web.
Florio, M. (2007). Cost-benefit analysis and incentives in evaluation. The structural funds of the European Union. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Fox, L.M. (2006). Attacking Africa’s poverty: Experience from the Ground. Washington: World Bank Publications.
Gay, K. (1996). Saving the environment: Debating the Costs. New York: Franklin Watts.
Index Mundi. (2009). Kenya GDP: Real growth rate. Web.
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Udogu, I. E. (1997). Democracy and democratization in Africa: Toward the 21st century. Leiden: E.J. Brill publishers.