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Despite the euphoria, Kenya is not out of the woods yet

COMMENTARY

Despite the euphoria, Kenya is not out of the woods yet

Story by ROBERT SHAW
Publication Date: 3/11/2008

THERE IS MUCH JUBILATION and exuberance in the air and a real hope that life for most Kenyans can return to some semblance of normality. Certainly, there is a more positive feeling and for good reasons.

But there is an erroneous expectation by many that things will not only continue to get back to normal, but that we can pick up from where we were so rudely interrupted.

For example, the shilling strengthens, the Nairobi Stock Exchange picks up, and commentators start talking of rapid economic recovery. A cruise ship docks and we celebrate the return of tourists.

I do not want to appear to be a spoilsport, but it is not as simple as that. It is vital that we inject a large dose of reality into our hopes and expectations. We don’t want to raise false hopes that get dashed once the hard work begins.

We need to do this so that we can map out and implement a comprehensive action plan that will restore this country and its economic growth.

WE ALSO NEED THIS SO THAT WE can remedy and rectify some of the glaring distortions and inequities that bedevil the nation.

This is going to require an enormous residue of goodwill and hard work by all, the Executive and Parliament in particular. Let us put it another way. There is little room for the luxury of divisive politics.

It is useful to put on the table some of the impediments and challenges that confront us. Much damage has been done in many different areas and repairing it will take time. The economic momentum that we gained particularly in the past couple of years has been punctured.

It can be restored but not instantly. Even then, to do so will require much dedication and hard work.

Investor confidence is greater than a week ago, but still far from what it was three months ago. At best, all we can hope for is a steady return of it if stability and opportunity persist.

The region, of which we are a hub to, has been seriously disrupted. Confidence in Kenya as a reliable regional gateway has been severely dented.

We have a lot to make up if we want to persuade these countries not to find medium- and long-term alternatives. We must not assume we are doing them a favour. This is huge business for Kenya and hence a major pillar of our economy.

Then, there are the factors, not of our own making: rocketing fuel and food prices and costs of transport, and a drought that will worsen the plight of many already marginalised Kenyans.

We need to remember that there are also areas of the economy that are sick and need serious surgery. One such example is sugar. Kenya is one of the most expensive and inefficient sugar producers in the world.

At the same time, this sub-sector is facing increasing competition as the Comesa safeguards are relaxed.

The need to change is urgent and vital and for both social as well as economic and commercial reasons. Failure to do so plunges hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and their dependants into a downward spiral of poverty.

The point is that once the modalities of the coalition and its power-sharing are sorted out, the gargantuan task of running and reforming this country must kick in very fast indeed.

It will be as much a question of how effectively and efficiently it can be implemented, as well as what must be done.

Never before in the history of Kenya has the political class been put firmly into a position where it is expected to work hard and deliver.

KENYANS WILL BE WATCHING carefully over the next few weeks, and not just to see who gets what in the political equation.

They will be expecting the many appointments and replacements to be made based on merit rather than reward so that our institutions function much better and more professionally.

At the same time, the onus of running this country is not only weighty, but has got much more burdensome as a result of the trauma of the last couple of months.

Indeed, running this country successfully at this crucial juncture is one of the most awesome and unenviable challenges thinkable.

Mr Shaw is a Nairobi-based businessman.

 
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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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