The Prosperity Index 2020 released in mid-November reveals the good, the bad and ugly for Kenya in the last decade.
Generally, the country has improved in the global ranking to perch itself at position 113 from 121 in 2010.
But it has been a mixed bag of fortunes for Kenyans. They have enjoyed more freedom of movement than any other country, but citizens of 40 other countries have come to enjoy more freedom of belief and religion than Kenyans in the last decade.
Kenya’s economy has grown with Gross Domestic Product per capita, improving compared to other countries. But this has also come at the expense of the country’s fiscal sustainability.
Kenya’s budget deficit, the difference between what the Government spends and what it earns in taxes, has worsened with the Government borrowing over Sh6 trillion during this period to build roads, railways, ports and powerlines.
Due to the negative effects of Covid-19, the Government is expected to borrow as much as Sh1 trillion. As a result, there has been talk of the Government being at risk of defaulting on its loans.
Since 2010, Kenya has maintained its position at the top of the global ranking in terms of primary school completion, thanks to the free primary education programme that was unveiled by President Kibaki in 2003. But where we have done well on quantity, other countries have done better in quality.
In terms of the skillset of university graduates, Kenya has dropped by 22 positions. This is worrying in an increasingly competitive globalised labour market.
The incessant war between outgoing Chief Justice David Maraga with the Executive, as well as the bold decision by the Supreme Court to overturn President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win during the 2017 elections, has earned the independence of the Judiciary more marks. Kenya is currently at position 54 in the world in judicial independence compared to 116 ten years ago.
However, the Executive has increasingly emasculated the other arms of Government, with checks of the Executive by the Judiciary and Legislature increasingly being constrained. The report finds that Kenya’s ranking in having Government officials sanctioned for misconduct has also dropped.
The report also finds that in Kenya, unlike other countries, there has been increased military involvement in rule of law. This comes at a time when critics have accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of ‘militarising public affairs.’ The Nairobi Metropolitan Service, which is domiciled in the office of the President, for instance, is technically running the affairs of Nairobi county and is headed by a military man.
Civil ethnic wars have dwindled considerably, catapulting Kenya to the first position in the world from 157 ten years ago, but Kenya has seen increased terrorism incidences and injuries during this period.
Kenya is now a shining star in the existence of national screening programmes, which give a huge impetus to President Kenyatta’s plan for universal healthcare. But the President will be beginning from a huge deficit in terms of ensuring that every Kenyan has decent shelter.
The country has dropped 67 places in availability of adequate shelter.
The Index revealed that, prior to the pandemic, global prosperity stood at a record high, with 147 out of 167 countries seeing prosperity rise over the last decade, driven by improved health, education, and living conditions, and more open economies.
“However, the improvement seen in the last 12 months had not kept pace with the progress of the previous two years, as Asia-Pacific and Western Europe stalled and North America deteriorated slightly,” read a statement from Legatum Institute, a charity organisation that prepares the index.
“In addition, stagnating personal freedom and governance around the world is holding back further improvement in prosperity.”
The best place to live in, according to the index is Denmark while the worst place to live in is South Sudan.
Of the main pillars, the one in which Kenya has improved the most in the period under review is inclusive societies where Kenya raced past 22 countries. The area that contributed the most in this pillar was on social capital.
Surprisingly, what has shored up the country’s social capital is increased trust in national Government which has improved 113 places in the global ranking. Kenyans have also had more confidence in the judicial system and courts, the police and military.
The worst performer in this pillar has been the banks. Even politicians have earned Kenyans’ trust more than financial institutions and banks.
The soundness of banks has also dropped by 44 places, according to the ranking-perhaps due the hawkish behavior by lenders which have charged high interest rates on loans.
Moreover, Kenyans have also improved on civic and social participation-donating more to charity, voting more, volunteering and voicing their opinions to a public official.
The country has improved 82 places in the time spent filing taxes, but 71 other countries have bypassed Kenya in easing the burden of obtaining a building permit. Moreover, 21 countries have overtaken Kenya by eliminating red tapes and slashing the time it takes to comply with regulations.
The index quantifies prosperity in 167 countries across the globe, which together contain 99.4 per cent of the world’s population.
Almost 300 country-level indicators, grouped into 65 policy-focused elements, are used to measure the current state of prosperity in these countries and how it has changed since 2010.
Despite the stagnant position the country posted an improved five per cent growth in the prosperity curve in the last one decade.
During the President Kibaki regime the economic quality globally was ranked at position 104 out of 167 with a total of 43.8 per cent.
A decade later, crippled by swelling public debt, dwindling savings and a plunge in government integrity Kenya has dropped to position 108 with a total of 43.0 per cent.
The prosperity report has painted a grim picture of a government with a huge budget but no money to fund the same.
In the report the Government’s budget balance dropped from -4.3 per cent in 2010 to -7.8 per cent in 2020 pushing the country to position 159 in 2020 from 92 in 2010.
Kenya is now among the bottom ten countries with the worst budget deficits globally, with the pandemic now worsening an already dire situation.
The last decade as well has seen the country freedom of assembly and association dropped significantly with non- governmental organisation and activists bemoaning the intolerance from the powers that be.
According to the report the country’s freedom of association and assembly dropped from 66.7 per cent in 2010 to 55.6 per cent in 2020.
This drop means that Kenya has moved 14 positions in the global rank to position 98.
Interestingly, the drop portrays the iron fist with which the government has been dealing with those opposed or having a contrary opinion to policies in the last few years.
For instance, the civil society has been decrying the manner in which the Government has been interfering with their work while others have complained of freezing of their accounts.