Ideas & Debate

Ten issues to address for rapid economic growth in new year

This year is full of great expectations and anxieties. Businesses and investors are hoping for economic and political stability in the election year. The youths are expecting more job opportunities.

Kenyans are yearning for continued peace and socio-economic growth. The international community is anxious on whether we will conduct peaceful and conclusive elections. This is a transitional year by all descriptions. It is the year when we expect to launch numerous new constitutional and institutional changes under new leadership.

Due to new governance structures, there will definitely be many fresh and probably untested faces in various arms of government. Managing change and expectations will require strong and focused leadership. Failure to manage the transitional year with expertise may initially lead to slower delivery of services, and in some cases confusion.

The major challenge I see in 2013 is the apparent budgetary deficits, which will become more pronounced as we implement the Constitution. There will also be new and unbudgeted for election promises to finance.

The recent quashing by politicians of measures that would have increased revenues through tax reforms does not help. Runaway budgetary deficits may lead to massive public borrowing with resultant high interest rates and reduced economic growth. Only disciplined fiscal management will preserve financial sanity as we go through the transition.

Here are my 10 wishes and prayers for 2013:

1. My first prayer is that Kenyans take the opportunity offered by the elections to usher in a strong national and county leadership capable of taking the social and economic growth agenda to another level. So far, absence of issues-based campaigns shows that we are not seriously focusing on this golden chance.

2. I am optimistic that this time around the elections will be without violence. My prayer, however, is that we should continue to consciously work towards making this happen. We shall also need to conclusively address the incessant insecurity linked to Al-Shaabab and ethnic clashes since they depreciate our national brand.

3. It is my sincere wish and hope that the next leadership shall positively and visibly display fairness in national appointments by applying the principles of competence and regional balancing. Appointments should never be based on which regions massively voted for the leadership.

It is this demonstration of national fairness that will convince Kenyans that it does not matter which part of the country the leadership comes from. This will help demolish the belief that “it is our turn to eat” which has always worked against national cohesion.

4. It is my wish that the oil and gas resources so far discovered will be confirmed as commercially viable in the course of the year. I also hope and pray that during 2013, the government shall put in place appropriate oil and gas policies, strategies, laws and a master plan to guide this country towards responsible management of the newly found hydrocarbons. It is understood that the World Bank and African Development Bank have already undertaken to fund these legal reforms.

5. The recent Traffic Act amendments are perhaps the second-most important legal reform touching on lives of Kenyans after the Alcoholic Drinks and Beverages Act 2010 (Mututho law). My sincere wish is that the authorities will effectively implement the new road safety measures and other public safety programmes. If we aim to improve road safety performance by at least 30 per cent, we shall save about 1,000 lives.

6. To make the national transport infrastructure complete, it will be important to implement the standard gauge railway project this year. A fast railway system from Mombasa to Uganda is the glaring missing link during the Kibaki era infrastructure successes.

A modern rail system is essential for evacuating an upgraded and busy port, it also helps to protect our highways from premature wear, removes many regional non-tariff barriers and is definitely more efficient, cost-effective and safer.

7. The Lamu port and Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor project has great capacity to transform the marginalised northern parts of Kenya. It is my wish that financing for the port and the highway are concluded and construction starts this year. The other corridor project components can only happen if the port and the highway are already in place.

8. It is my hope that the next government will find it important to immediately set up a stand alone and well equipped agency for prevention, preparedness and response to disasters and emergencies. This is an area that always finds us unprepared and often pushes our country backwards leaving our national esteem wounded.

9.It is my strong wish that in 2013 our neighbours — South Sudan and Somalia — shall get their act together and stabilise their countries so that they can deserve to become trading partners within the East African Community.

10. On the international scene, it is my sincere prayer that the disheartening news of human suffering from Syria will come to an early end in 2013. The Syrians should find a political solution that enables them to achieve meaningful and lasting peace.

Mr Wachira is the director at the Petroleum Focus Consultants. Email:[email protected]