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Editorials

EDITORIAL: Fix the economy to contain job losses

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Just like it was when the 1990s decade began, something is awfully wrong with our economy as we begin the 2020s. When official data shows that the labour-intensive manufacturing and agriculture sectors only expanded at modest rates of 3.1 and 3.2 percent respectively in the third quarter of 2019, something is surely amiss.

And when at least 13 companies sent home hundreds of workers in 2019, and employers are still warning of further job cuts in the new year, the health of our economy can be anything but stable.

Only that this is not the past decade. For one, the International Monetary Fund is not at hand to prescribe a round of its much discredited SAPs (structural adjustment programmes).

Secondly, the economy appears to have been left to its own devices as the government isn’t talking about an economic stimulus package like it would have done in the past.

The truth, however, is that our economy needs fixing, with agriculture as the starting point. The condition of agriculture is very important for our economic wellbeing as it accounts for more than one quarter of our gross domestic product. The sector employs nearly 80 percent of the rural workforce and provides food for households while generating raw materials for the manufacturing sector. It’s unfortunate that corruption has nearly negated years of investment in irrigation meant to make the sector weather-proof while threats such as armyworm and locust invasion still loom in the horizon. At a macro level, the political leadership must listen to employers who are warning of continuation of the job-loss streak in 2020 unless policy uncertainty and cash shortage plaguing the economy are addressed.

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Apparently, Parliament is full of overzealous MPs who legislate before thinking through the new laws. When you decide to control interest rates today only to repeal the law, that makes for an unhealthy policy uncertainty. When you cut import duty on industrial goods while at the same time adjusting domestic taxes upwards, the resulting contradiction spells a death knell for many a firm.

The same is the case when you make laws allowing women, youth and disabled to easily access public tenders only to hold their cash for several months after execution of contract.

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