STATE OF THE KENYA’S ECONOMY AND THE CHRISTIAN ENGAGEMENT

Mr. Gerrishon Ikiara

Mr. Ikiara began by stating that he had worked with NCCK, where he used to present their budgets, critiquing the same.

He mentioned that he sees a lot of confusion in interpreting issues by many people who barely have the knowledge of a subject/reality.

To explain this, he used an example, where he had supervised Mr. Vincent Kimosop, the Secretary of Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, on his thesis on unclaimed financial assets, which later developed to an authority, the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority that is under the Kenya Government which has seen Kshs. 40 billion recovered by 2016. He used this example to elaborate that each person has a role to play, no matter the position.

The former PS, Transport challenged the Christian Professionals, “when given an opportunity, take your time to impact/make a contribution/cause a change”.

Gerrishon said that the biggest contribution that has taken place nowadays has not been caused by armies, but rather by individuals. He said that every person should stop complaining & start causing change.

In discussing the status of Kenya’s economy, Mr. Ikiara said that corruption is one of the causes of the low economic growth, he said that people’s perception of Kenyan economy influences how we view our economy.

He said that the Kenyan GDP was at 70 billion dollars in November, 2016. He stated that before Kenyans complain, they need to put this figure into context: he compared the Kenyan economy with Walmart, the world’s largest supermarket chain which began very humbly but in 2016, its annual turnover is at 700 billion dollars. Kenya is 10% of Walmart. He said that when compared to other countries economy, Kenya was not doing badly. He said that Kenya is among the top 5 better performing countries in Africa.

Mr. Ikiara, who was a Permanent Secretary during the presidency of Mr. Mwai Kibaki, said that Kenyans should cease perpetually blaming the President who has 40 million Kenyans to serve, corruption is a small kick, there are many other aspects that if addressed would improve the economy . He challenged that every person should play a role in improving the situation. He said that it would be important to have the facts on the economy since many people don’t understand about building an economy.

He said that the former president, Mwai Kibaki supported the projects of development indiscriminately, he didn’t care which county a project came from, he focused on developing the infrastructure. Mr. Ikiara said that if he had gotten full support, the economy would be higher than the 70billion dollars we have today.

What can we do as “Leaders”?

The senior lecturer of Economics at the University of Nairobi, Mr. Ikiara said that there is need to create an environment for inclusive growth.

Mr. Ikiara said that when he was appointed to be a Permanent Secretary after criticizing the government on print media for so long, he was at first hesitant but he decided to take up the role with an aim to make a difference and so as not to let down those who had appointed him. He took the job viewing it at a national perspective, not as a Meru.

In discussing about the huge national debt of Kenya, he opined that people should take time to understand debt economics, both at individual, community, nation and international levels.  He said that whether Kenya is highly indebted, should not be the issue, but rather, whether the borrowed money is being used properly.  He illustrated this by referring to America which is the most indebted country yet it is the biggest economy in the world, while Nigeria, another highly indebted country is one of the most developed in Africa.

He cited an example of President Kibaki who borrowed 30 billion to build the Thika Highway, a milestone that has attracted many investors, returning more than 20times more than the amount invested. It has changed Kenyans perception on what we can do and what not.

He said that the Standard Railway Gauge (SGR), when completed, will be a life- changing improvement.

He challenged the Christian professionals to take time to study the economic status in order to understand the reality and be able to knowledgably engage in the development of the same. He urged those present to be cautious of the toxic media and seek to be optimistic as individuals.

Mr. Ikiara stated that there was a big problem with people’s perception where most people, especially the youth believe in godfathers. He challenged each person to be ready to identify opportunities and create the best out of them. He said that the country had lost many youth because of negativity; this has destroyed many youth who now think in terms of shortcuts. Parents are even saying it publicly without a shame that they bribe for exams/jobs for their children, Politicians too are key players in the negative conversations and creating the illusion of easy monies. Plagiarism in schools even at Masters Level.

He said that Kenya and America had a similarity at the moment. People were just looking for arguments which they reduced to high school debates, using language to propagate things that are not true in order to get followers.

Solution

In suggesting a solution to the perceived low economic status of Kenya, Mr. Ikiara said that the key issue would be to confront issues with facts, objectivity and to be patient. He however said that the economy of Kenya was doing very well with a growth rate of 9.8% as at 2016. He said that the increased number of middle-class professionals and technology such as MPESA had placed the country at a higher level.

Agriculture has also improved. Mr. Ikiara said that when inflation is less than 10%, it is never a crisis and hence there should be no reason why Kenyans should be despondent.

He said that population of Kenya, 45 million was big and hence if every Christian professional /and the citizens in general who were doing well could each boost at least 1% of the Kenyan population, the economy would go far.

In conclusion and in responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Ikiara stated that people should learn to show by example. To overcome the toxic media, people should be able to counter the negativity, basing their thinking/perspectives on reality. In responding to the issue of the increased wage bill, he observed that there is nowhere in the world where the president “the CEO” cannot fire and hire. “If you make a bed, be ready to sleep on it saying that democracy had been misused.”

He referred to the private sector as the backbone of Kenyan economy. He said that in some cases the rich act as a motivation to the poor, e.g. Bill Gates, they are an asset, people are challenged and want to emulate them.

On the issue of inequality in Kenya, he said that it is dependent on how someone applies his/her skill e.g. if a drunkard is given money, she/he will go for more alcohol even to a point of killing oneself.  He quoted “Sometimes you have to get yourself out of the mud”.

In giving his view on devolution, Mr. Ikiara said that counties had shown potential; it was creating competition, a challenge to governors to work hard as rest.  He said that they were helping but corruption was very intense.

On whether the GDP is a good measure of a country’s development, he said that it was important, but other critical aspects, like Distribution and Human Development Index (HDIs) also play a role in defining development.

On issues of young people and startups, he said that quite a number are graduating to greater entrepreneurs, but the only challenge was that this had not been fully utilized.

On gambling, he added that the issue should be viewed from a values perspective, using Article 10 of the Kenya Constitution on National Values.

Plenary Meeting, Thursday, 17th November 2016

Facilitator: Mr. Gerrishon Ikiara

Senior Lecturer/Economics Consultant at University of Nairobi

former PS, Transport

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