Local firms used five-year dialogue sessions with policy technocrats to rally top government officials into cutting red tape and lowering the cost of doing business.
As the curtains fell on the Prime Minister’s Round Table (PMRT) on Tuesday, private sector players said the reduction of the time it takes to start a business from 60 days in 2008 to 33 this year was among the key achievements of the meetings.
“The forum quickly evolved into a great model for the rest of the region on how the private sector should engage with governments,” said Kenya Private Sector Alliance CEO Carole Kariuki.
The forums were started following the 2008 post-election violence to speed up economic recovery and accelerate the return to high growth.
The PMRTs chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga saw government technocrats, permanent secretaries and cabinet ministers come together on quarterly basis to discuss pressing investment climate issues with private sector.
Mr Odinga would then brief President Kibaki on the progress of every meeting. In total, the forum held 10 such meetings since its inception five years ago.
Among other achievements, the forum is credited with are; successful push for 24-hour port operations in East Africa, the reduction of VAT on electricity to 12 per cent and development of regional integration strategy.
The Communication and Energy Act which has introduced Sh5 million fine or 10 year imprisonment for vandalism, the Engineers Act, National Construction Authority Act and the Land Act are some of the legislation pushed through its sessions.
“The PMRT was a movement and a very creative one to private sector,” said Kenya Tourism Federation chairperson Lucy Karume.
Though it’s far from its target of reducing business starting time to one week and raising intra East Africa Community (EAC) trade from current 15 to 50 per cent, private sector was full of praise as the forum held its last meeting.
The private sector has, however, linked 63.5 per cent growth of Kenya’s export to EAC - from Sh83.9 billion in 2008 to Sh137.2 billion - to the speed at which they were able to push for reforms through PMRT.
“Because of this forum, the speed at which the government executed its promises to private sector increased and our regional issues easily got the attention of heads of state summit,” Kepsa’s chairman Patrick Obath said.
While the position of the Prime Minister is no longer in the constitution, Mr Odinga who is campaigning for presidency said he would retain a similar platform should he win election.
“My government would concentrate in expanding infrastructure, boosting supply of cheap energy and creating jobs,” he said, adding that close relations with private sector will help to deliver the pledges.
At the forum, Mr Odinga repeated the State’s promise to facilitate free, fair and peaceful election saying another false step like the 2007 would relegate the country to a pariah status.
“We have gained a lot of ground since 2008 but we know that our neighbours will overtake us if we make another false step,” he said.