Why Uhuru must shed his political suit today

Published on 11/06/2009

By Standard Reporter

If it is indeed true that ours is a country where being the son or daughter of privilege means that money and power are forever glued to your heel, then Uhuru Kenyatta appears to be the living epitome of that fact.

But which Uhuru will we see in Parliament today? There is Uhuru, the son of Kenya’s founding president, whose Ivy League schooling often appears to alienate him from the travails of the ordinary Kenyan.

Born 48 years ago, he is the first of Mama Ngina Kenyatta’s sons, and studied at St Mary’s School, Nairobi, and then on to Amherst College in Cambridge to study economics and political science.

To some, when in public he often appears insensitive, even dismissive, in both speech and attitude, which, to them, reflects his roots.

That came to the fore when he first dismissed claims by fellow MP Gitobu Imanyara, that there Supplementary Estimates for the 2008/09 financial year had errors.

His flippant attribution of the same to a ‘typing error’ further reinforced that image. Then there is Uhuru the politician, a role he appears to have been propelled into by his roots, education.

As a politician, Uhuru’s instincts would be to follow his predecessor, Amos Kimunya’s footsteps, and go for a populist budget.The pressure on him to cut taxes on staple food items, and deliver the so-called “People’s Budget” is huge.

Bite the bullet

And then there is Uhuru the businessman. By virtue of the vast business interests his family has, he would be inclined to play the capitalist card, and protect the interests of his moneyed class.

That would mean injecting measures that cushion them from the harsher effects of higher taxes. Regardless of which suit he wears today, he really shouldn’t go for a populist budget, but is better off biting the bullet.

The suit he wears today should be that of a Finance Minister aware that his job is not to win a popularity contest, but lay the foundations for faster economic growth.

The latter means different things to different people, but at the end of it all, it all boils down to creating an attractive environment for investment. Kenya has been unfairly compared to countries like Somalia when talking about Gross Domestic Product (the total value of goods produced and services in a country during one year).

The truth is that Kenya’s economic foundation remains stable, and will support accelerated growth rates in the medium term. Infrastructure — roads, ports, railways, electricity and communication — may be battered, but are still vastly superior to war-weary Somalia’s.

Uhuru must today cast away his political skin and present a Budget grounded on sound economic principles, not short-term political mileage.

After his speech today, there will be foot thumping and handshakes, but the final verdict will come several months later, when the effects of the changes he proposes come into play.

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