Reignite discourse on citizens’ needs

By Tobias Alando

In the last few days, Kenyans have waited with bated breath for the presidential results of the just concluded elections to be announced. Several times, any proposals or plans were met with the response, “after elections.” It is without a doubt that the country was at a near standstill before and during the electioneering period.

The results have been finally announced. The question remains, what next for Kenya? We are at a critical juncture as a nation. Kenya’s prevailing economic situation is currently characterized by the high cost of living which continues to rise, ever-soaring levels of unemployment, widening trade deficit, and the heavy public debt burden. Over the last two years, Kenya’s economy has also been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The situation was exacerbated by the slowdown in business experienced during the electioneering period. 

How can the incoming Government resolve these challenges?

First, is by dealing with all factors that contribute to the high cost of living – the heavy taxation and regulatory burden, high cost of production for local manufacturers, policy instability and unpredictability, transport and logistics challenges, illicit trade and market access, among others.

Our tax regime, for example, is characterized by unpredictability, thus hindering the business community from making long-term investment plans. This can be addressed by the implementation of the National Tax Policy, which is currently undergoing review by stakeholders, as well as effective coordination frameworks between the national and county governments to enhance their efficiency and reduce the burden on businesses.

On the other hand, the heavy regulatory burden is a key concern for citizens and business. Lengthy and manual processes for obtaining regulatory permits and numerous licenses as well as fees, levies and charges are significant barriers to entrepreneurship. We urge the incoming government to reduce the number of regulations and bring down the cost and time spent on compliance and consolidate regulators at the national and county levels. A better regulatory environment can be achieved through increased stakeholder consultations and impact assessments for proposed legislation to guard against impeding socio-economic growth.

Second, we need to strengthen our supply chains to reduce reliance on imports. Nothing demonstrated the need to build Kenya’s capacity to locally source essential items than the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This calls for increased investment in the manufacturing sector. We need to focus on making our business environment competitive to attract local and foreign investors into the country. Additionally, create an enabling business environment for existing businesses to thrive and compete on a level-playing field with their regional counterparts. A thriving manufacturing sector also means job and wealth creation, and that pillars such as health and food security are enabled

Thirdly, is efficient provision of public goods and services, which shall lead to growth in labour productivity. Public goods that are known to spur industrial growth include enhanced access to public information, efficient infrastructure, maintaining law and order, efficient judicial resolution and targeted wide sector industrial policies.

As we emerge from the electioneering period, it is paramount that our leaders both at the national and county levels prioritize citizens’ most pressing needs and drive the achievement of the country’s development goals. In addition to implementing their manifestos, elected leaders need to listen to mwananchi’s most exigent issues, and look into them with the goal of finding lasting solutions. It is only by doing this that we shall be able to solve the challenges we are currently grappling with as a nation.

We remain optimistic that even as the incoming Government focuses on nation-building, citizens will continue to play their part to keep Kenya moving. We also call on all stakeholders to maintain peace during and even after the transition period. 

 

The writer is the Ag. Chief Executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached at ceo@kam.co.ke   

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