Industrial Strikes threatening Kenyan economic growth:
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto assumed offices amidst optimism, youthful exuberance and record compatibility. They were gutsy and plucky. However, their cockiness is under tremendous test. Optimism has locked horns with pragmatism. With current wasteful expenditures, wage inflation and unrealistic promises such as laptop for students and free health care including free maternity care; Uhuru administration is facing the biggest test of implementing Jubilee agenda. It is the test of a lifetime.
Unpredictable political atmosphere presented by International Criminal Cases of crimes against humanity facing President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang doesn’t lessen the pang. It exacerbates already complicated economic situation. Investor confidence is primarily dependent upon stable political environment and assured security-both lacking in our contemporary Kenya.
Yet if you ask me, the economic landscape of Kenya is at a risk of sliding into recession. Thanks to persistent industrial strikes. Unless emergency economic rescue strategy is incorporated in Uhuru’s plan, unemployment will go up, corruption will be rife, insecurity will escalate, there will be hindrance to delivery of services and life will become unbearable for the poor and the low income earners.
Un-mitigated strikes are posing greatest threat to economic growth and doing harm to our already ailing economy. Instead of working, our nation has turned into a walking nation. Can a walking nation better her economic situation? Absolutely not. A non-working nation slowly but surely imposes upon herself economic sanctions.
Unfortunately, our Lawmakers of the 11th parliament set the precedent. They became the first “walking” state officers. Instead of working, they went on “strike” demanding for unjustifiable salary increment. They also threatened to disband Salary Remuneration Commission (SRC). They in essence opened the floodgates of strikes. Their example was replicated across the board.
Civil servants followed suit. They demanded for pay increment. “No pay increase, No work”, they asserted. Nurses followed suit. They demanded better working terms and conditions including better remuneration. They threatened to down their medication, stethoscopes and syringes. Police are said to be operating under a “slow” strike. I pray they do not down the gun.
Teachers are now walking in the same “striking” footsteps. They proclaimed they do not “eat dialogue.” They want “handsome” salary and allowance increment. They have downed pens, pencils, chalks, books and boards. More damning, however, is “unga uprising.” Ordinary Kenyans are up in arms. They’re opposing perceived plans to hike prices for basic commodities. They have threatened to go on strike if prices are hiked.
Can our developing nation survive such massive industrial strikes? I doubt it. Sadly, strikes will debase Kenyan economic status. Economic specialist Mr. Robert Bunyi who is also Managing Director for Mavuno Capital opines: “One of the biggest risks facing the economy right now is the public sector wage inflation. It may not be sustainable and maintaining it will erode crucial capital investments.”
Although Kenyan economy is projected to grow by a single digit, industrial strikes will stand in the way. Moody’s- a leading global rating firm cautioned Kenya last week: “The [economic] outlook remains sensitive to weather shocks, particularly variability in rainfall, which affects agricultural output and electricity output and prices.”
That’s why President Uhuru Kenyatta and his economic advisory board must summon courage, assemble the smartest economic minds in Kenya and move with a sense of urgency to prevent economic depression. He should resuscitate our ailing economy before it moves into ICU. As a politician, Uhuru should devise a political solution to economic problems, first; by negotiating nation’s way out of strikes.
By Jacktone S. Ambuka, a Kenyan residing at State College Pennsylvania USA. I can be reached at email [email protected],