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The Nexus Between Campaign Promises made by Kenyan Politicians and Development Outcomes (Part#1)

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In this article, I would like to address the nexus between the campaign promises made by politicians in Kenya during election period and its direct impact to development outcomes in Kenya. Whether you belong to the dynasties vs hustlers, or you belong to the other tribe that has never led this country, please understand me. I am a frustrated Kenyan. It is our moment as Kenyans to reckon. To think hard because the political class in Kenya is at it again. Trying to divide us based on meaningless ideologies and narratives that have no development solutions to our problems. The same ideologies that don’t furnish “Wanjiku” with food on the table, better health care systems, good infrastructure, better education for our children and so on.

First, I would like to argue that while elected politicians fundamentally affect the welfare of citizens in a democracy, holding politicians to account is not always easy. In emerging economies for example, a pro-social policy may be held up by bureaucratic inefficiency, by the strategic conduct of elected or non-elected office holders, or by other institutional hurdles. In such settings, citizen monitoring of politician promises, and behavior (checks and balances) is made harder by the lack of information about what politicians and others are up to; even if a citizen knows what a representative has promised, it is difficult to ascertain whether a politician’s actions or an institutional weakness is to blame if a pro-social policy fails. Do not be lied to. Uncertainty about the true cause—with a hard-to-mitigate asymmetric information challenge at its core—will therefore often prevail, like it has always prevailed in Kenya.

Secondly, we need to ask ourselves whether party manifestos matter when it comes to policymaking in Kenya. A key factor in modern democracies’ legitimization is the extent to which policies submitted for public approval before an election translate into material outcomes once a political party has won power. In Kenya, there seems to be no clear empirical evidence for partisanship in policymaking nor has any unified theory been offered or tested systematically. Since independence, we’ve always anticipated that Political parties and their candidates aggregate sets of policy positions and commit to implementing them as policies. We have struggled as a nation since the ability of the political systems to achieve representatives’ normative goal, or even popular sovereignty has always been undermined because of weak “programme-to-policy linkage”. Or what some will term as empty promises by the political class.

It’s exactly 42 months since Jubilee Party launched its manifesto on June 26, 2017. The manifesto highlighted 10 critical things that were to make Kenya “Great Again “. At least that’s what we were told, and so we believed. While stereotypes suggests that promise-breaking belongs to the fine art of political practice, I want to argue that it is also consistent with traditional choice theory; Kenyan politicians are, perhaps more familiar with promises than most others and the fulfilment of election promises features centrally both in the mandate theory of democracy and in the responsible party model.

Before you are dragged into rhetoric narratives and ideologies, let me remind you of the promises made in 2017 by the Jubilee Party, during the campaign period.

Promise#1: 1.3million jobs were to be created every year and the national government was to work with county governments to establish at least one industry in every county. 1.3 million jobs since 2017 translates to at least 6.5million jobs by 2022. Unemployment rate in Kenya stood at 2.7% in 2017, as at the time this promise was made.

Promise#2: Was to establish a government sponsored apprenticeship programme of up to 12 months of all university and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates. The objective was to improve employability and competitiveness of Kenyan youth through quality and relevant Technical Education and Entrepreneurship Training. The specific objective objectives were to increase inclusive access to technical education and training through expansion of infrastructure and training equipment, including to trainees with special needs; improve the quality and relevance of technical education and training through a demand-drive CBET curriculum; capacity building of TVET actors, partnership with industry and entrepreneurship; facilitate evidence-based decision making in TVET through research.

Promise#3: Was to double the number of vulnerable citizens supported through the cash transfer programme (Inua Jamii) from 700,000 to 1,400,000. This was to include all citizens above the age of 70; in addition, all citizens above the age of 70 were to obtain health insurance cover through the NHIF. The objective of Inua Jamii was to uplift the lives of poor and vulnerable citizens of Kenya through regular and reliable bi-monthly cash transfers. This was to include Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC), Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), Persons with Severe Disabilities Cash Transfer (PWSD-CT) and Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP). Ksh 4,000 ($40) was to be paid bi-monthly to CT-OVC, OPCT and PWSD-CT beneficiaries or households. Ksh 5,400 ($54) was to be paid bi-monthly to HSNP households.

Promise#4: Was to expand the free primary school programme to include free day public secondary schools in Kenya. As at the time this promise was being made, free primary school had already been launched. There was no free day public secondary school programme at the time.

Promise#5: Was to facilitate mass housing production of at least 500,000 affordable homes in 5 years across the country by working in partnership with financial institutions, private developers, manufacturers of building materials and cooperatives to deliver homes faster and reduce the cost of construction by at least 50%.

Promise#6: Was to expand free maternity care to include government funded NHIF cover for every expectant mother for one year.

Promise#7: Was to ensure every citizen is connected to reliable and affordable electricity (on or off-grid) by 2020. According to the Energy Progress Report released by World Bank on 2nd May,2016 electricity access rate in Kenya stood at 56.00% compared to Tanzania (32.8%), Rwanda (29.37%), Uganda (26.7%) and Burundi (7.5%).

Promise#8: Was to expand food and agricultural production, double the fertiliser subsidy initiative, reducing the cost to farmers to less than Ksh1,500 ($15). Expand the programme to include all crops with a resultant increase in production and support the expansion and capacity of local fertiliser manufacture.

Promise#9: Was to complete the 57-large-scale dam construction programme, support small-holder agricultural irrigation and work with the private sector to enhance food and agricultural production on at least 1.2 million acres.

Promise#10: Was to make government more transparent and accountable through the digitization of all government procurement; expand and deliver e-government services through the growing network of Huduma Centres.

In my next article, I will be looking at the progress made against these promises and its impact.

Donnelly Mwachi
Evidence Frontiers – Chief Executive Officer