Recently, I engaged in a discussion on the effects of politics on our economy. I received a response from a member of the public that a whole several scholars are trying to separate politics and economics, yet the two are like Siamese twins hence inseparable.
The response raises the question of the discourse on political economy analysis. This is a recognition that development trajectories are always influenced by the prevailing political and economic situation in a country. Any development plans and processes must consequently take into consideration power relations, incentives and rules of the game.
It seeks to study the interactions between power and economics in society to determine how power and wealth is distributed and the effects on development pathways.
To this extent the member of the public was correct in his linking politics and economics. However, my point of departure from him relates to politicisation. While politics is always at the back of societal processes, by politicising processes, we make politics take centre stage. In the context of the Kenyan society this has the impact of forcing all decisions to be looked at from the prism of politics and politics alone.
Consequently, when you want to construct a school, your considerations stop becoming about whether it will serve the interest of children, but if the politicians in whose constituency the school is located will be happy with decision. Consequently, technical considerations get thrown out of the window. As a result, politics rules and determines all decisions in the country.
Every professional soon becomes a politician and when there is contestation between technical advice and political interests, contrary to the requirement of a political economy analysis whose objective is to take political and economic contexts into accounts, all else is ignored and only political interests drive the decision. This not only compromises the rule of law, but over time leads to underdevelopment and poor governance.
The evidence is all over the country. From the quest for basic needs, the budget making process, oversight discussions, the Big Four Agenda and the fight against corruption. This past week, if one watched one of the sessions of the Senate grilling governors over audited accounts on county finances, one would be able to see how far this politicisation has gone.
The Senate has responsibility to ensure that counties prudently use the resources allocated to them. This is a function they share with county assemblies. In the recent past, the grilling sessions have occasionally turned into political supremacy contests. Last week, the exchange between a governor and a senator demonstrated the dangers of politicization.
Both political leaders were from the same county. Instead of the debate being about the use of resources, the two went for each other through heated exchange of words. In the end it became evident that it was more about posturing for county leadership, with an eye on the next general election. While, there is nothing wrong with political ambition, when processes are turned into political duels, then the actual focus gets lost.
The other area where politicization seems to be playing out is in the fight against corruption. The discussion about corruption scandals this year has been more about which politician is targeted or involved as opposed to what the factual situation is. In the end, those involved in dealing with the issue get accused of pandering to political interests.
This happens against a grim economic situation in this country. There is widespread consensus that the country’s economic situation is unhealthy. One of the major causes of this worrying state, is the impact of corruption. Unfortunately, as a report authored by Wachira Maina and released last week titled ‘‘State Capture: Inside Kenya’s inability to Fight Corruption’’ powerfully demonstrates politics of state capture hinders the success of the fight against corruption.