Kenya: Voodoo economics and development corruption- by Ahmednassir Abdullahi- October 22, 2011

In the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan and George Bush were competing for the nomination of the Republican presidential candidate, Mr Bush was very critical of the economic policies propounded by his opponent.

Mr Reagan’s policies emphasised supply side economics, reduced income and capital gain taxes. Mr Bush derogatorily dismissed Mr Reagan’s economic policies as voodoo economics.
President Kibaki, who was once upon a time rated as a good economist, has subjected Kenya to nine years of an African version of voodoo economics.

With the shilling in a free fall, basic commodities out of reach for ordinary Kenyans, millions starving year after year, the poor getting poorer and the few privileged stealing more from the coffers of the State, Mr Kibaki’s disastrous economic policies will leave an indelible imprint on Kenya’s history far beyond his term.

When Mr Kibaki’s economic policies are written by historians, two important features will stand out. First is the number of billionaires his government created as a deliberate policy of communal empowerment.

Outside Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Mr Kibaki has created the largest number of billionaires anywhere in the world.
Unlike in America, China and India, where new billionaires are mostly individuals taking advantage of advances in new technologies, natural resource exploitation or merger and acquisition in the service sector, Kenya’s new billionaires are mostly ordinary people who steal from state coffers.

President Kibaki has used the Boris Yeltsin method of creating billionaires in Russia, which was premised on allowing his sidekicks and appointees to steal state resources.
The typical new billionaire is a man who was on financial death row in 2002. In 2003, he was appointed to head an important state organ. From 2003 to 2011, he has been benefiting through kickbacks in tenders and procurement.
The legacy Kibaki leaves is that part of his economic doctrine encouraged state employees to benefit from government resources.

His acceptance and even tacit encouragement of people to turn billionaires through a simple formula captures the absence of moral ingredients in his economic blueprint.
These billionaires, with their ill-gotten wealth, pose the greatest threat to stability in the next administration. They will probably try to destabilise it using their wealth.
More importantly, the next government has no choice but to address how this huge public wealth in private hands can be returned to state coffers.

President Kibaki’s second and unenviable economic legacy is how badly he has treated the poor. There is no debate that the poor in Kenya have grown poorer during his term.
His economic policies towards poor Kenyans are probably a reflection of a deep personal contempt for them.

Poor Kenyans can no longer afford basic commodities like sugar and maize. Not one day has Mr Kibaki addressed their issues.
He has been highly commended for infrastructure development. A friend of mine likes it, but calls it development corruption.

He says roads, airports, ports and railways are all being built by foreigners who give a certain “cut” to some people in power.
Mr Kibaki’s infrastructure development has not been critically appraised.

Many Kenyans rightly question whether he is preparing some of the counties for devolved government in undertaking certain infrastructure projects.

For instance, the billions spent on the Nairobi-Thika super highway could have given us a dual carriageway from Mombasa to Nairobi or even beyond.

Look at Nairobi itself. The northern parts of the city are undergoing massive infrastructure developments that open to central Kenya. The other parts are frozen in an underdevelopment capsule.

A critical study of Mr Kibaki’s economic policies may find its rightful habitat if one day a study is commissioned on the relationship between the economic and financial riches of the ethnic community that gives an African president and how their sons inevitably improve their fortunes.

Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly. This article was first published in the Kenyan Saturday Nation -