Economic Leadership Imperative: President Ruto’s Challenge In Kenya
By Kelvin Nyamache
Back in the year 1992, Bill Clinton, then a candidate representing the Democratic Party for the United States presidential race, brought into public consciousness the phrase, “The economy is the key.” A year before that, the incumbent President George H. Bush, in his bid for re-election under the Republican Party banner, enjoyed high approval ratings due to his decisive military action that expelled invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait. However, as 1992 dawned, a substantial portion of Mr. Bush’s political influence had waned in the face of an impending economic downturn.
Within this context, the Clinton campaign strategically honed the impactful phrase: “It’s the economy, wise minds.” The overarching goal was to keep American voters riveted, not on Mr. Clinton’s lack of experience in foreign affairs or the whiff of scandal associated with the Democratic candidate due to his reputation as a philanderer. The primary focus was unequivocally directed at the grim economic landscape and the growing number of job losses that had impacted numerous American households, leaving many with anxieties about their future.
Mr. Clinton skillfully converted this phrase and other indications of economic unease into a winning political strategy. This phrase evolved into a remarkably effective campaign slogan, propelling Mr. Clinton to a decisive victory and securing the White House.
Fast forward to Kenya, more than three years away from its next presidential election. President Ruto, who assumed office just last year, still has at least two years before he and his party should start considering re-election. Nevertheless, it would be prudent for the Kenyan president to recollect, just before bedtime and upon waking, that “The economy takes precedence, wise leaders!” If necessary, he should entrust one of his most reliable advisors to reinforce this essential truth. In the absence of an ardent guardian, Dr. Ruto should devise a method to regularly remind himself that the economy is paramount.
President Ruto should refrain from focusing on the years ahead before he or another candidate from his ruling UDA party seeks the approval of Kenyan citizens for another five-year presidential term. Dwelling on the future creates an illusion of having abundant time. Instead, the president and his party must concentrate on the one year that has transpired since Dr. Ruto’s inauguration. During this period, the Kenyan economy has severely deteriorated.
It is imperative to underline that the onslaught of economic adversity was bound to impact Kenya, regardless of the election outcome. Kenya now confronts the dire repercussions of years of irresponsible and visionless leadership. For decades, Kenyan “leaders” and their followers followed a style of governance best characterized as indulgence, living each day as if it were the last. Plagued by narrow-mindedness, they failed to recognize the potential their nation possessed to become a global exemplar of development, akin to the European, Asian, and North American countries they admired. Kenya’s scarcity was never financial; it was always a matter of willpower and imagination.
Kenyans are now witnessing the consequences of those decades marked by reckless extravagance. This is the culmination of years when a select few Kenyans exceeded the country’s capacity, reveling beyond the nation’s collective means. However, the Kenyan narrative can no longer be reduced to the imprudence of a few. Those who used ethnic, religious, or tribal rationales to shield or applaud the squandering of the nation’s aspirations share part of the responsibility.
Returning to Ruto’s one year in office, irrespective of his role in the current economic crisis, the fact remains that it has peaked under Dr. Ruto’s leadership. As a candidate, Ruto had assured Kenyan voters that he would rejuvenate the country. He had never stipulated that his promises were contingent on an auspicious economic climate or substantial financial resources. In any case, had circumstances taken a more favorable turn, with Kenya’s economy experiencing a boom shortly after his presidency began, there is no doubt that Dr. Ruto would have claimed credit for it.
It is now incumbent upon Dr. Ruto to assume a decisive role in steering Kenya out of these perilous economic times. His demeanor thus far fails to instill confidence that he comprehends the magnitude of the crisis or possesses a clear plan of action. The deteriorating foreign exchange situation has come to symbolize the depth of the crisis for many Kenyans. Almost on a daily basis, we receive phone calls from friends and relatives lamenting the rapid depreciation of the Kenyan currency.
Nonetheless, it is prudent to recognize that the drama surrounding the depreciating currency and the strengthening dollar often obscures the more profound, agonizing consequences of the ongoing crisis. The most pressing issue lies in the actuality and potential for massive job losses and the imminent shutdown of businesses across all sectors of the economy. Reports indicate that numerous entities have laid off significant portions of their workforce. Kenya’s pre-existing unemployment rates were already disconcertingly high, and securing alternate employment is as elusive as winning a jackpot in a Las Vegas casino.
Every employed Kenyan is typically responsible for supporting numerous dependents, making every job loss ripple through the economy. Dr. Ruto should not underestimate the gravity of the situation; it is his responsibility to guide Kenya toward economic recovery in the short term and long-term growth.
Even in less dire circumstances, doubts arise regarding the strength of Dr. Ruto’s economic team. Does the president possess the requisite attributes to navigate the economy out of its current turbulence in the short term and set it on a path of consistent growth in the long term? Has he received the most comprehensive advice regarding the nature and ramifications of the economic chaos, along with potential remedies?
To address this crisis and instill public confidence, we propose that President Ruto convene an economic conference, harnessing the expertise of professionals to outline a route toward economic recovery. Above all, the president must assure Kenyans that, in the grand scheme of things, the economy is of paramount importance. Period!
By Kelvin Nyamache: Diaspora Messenger Columnist/Contributor
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫, 𝗞𝗲𝗹𝘃𝗶𝗻 𝗡𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗲, 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝗽𝗶𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗦𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗿, 𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗿, 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝗮𝗰𝗵. 𝗛𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗵𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗹𝘆-𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝗽𝗶𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗦𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗲𝗿. 𝗞𝗲𝗹𝘃𝗶𝗻 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝘀, 𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽𝘀, 𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵𝗲𝘀, 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗳𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗮𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺𝘀𝗲𝗹𝘃𝗲𝘀. 𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗵𝗶𝗺 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁. 𝗛𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗯𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗻 +𝟮𝟱𝟰𝟳𝟵𝟴𝟴𝟴𝟵𝟱𝟭𝟬.
Economic Leadership Imperative: President Ruto’s Challenge In Kenya