Mwai Kibaki the economist is not just a term created in newsrooms but a common description of the departed President in many socio-economic and even political circles across the board.
For a man almost single handedly credited for lifting the Kenyan economy from the rubble, Kibaki’s legacy is clearly carved out by his economic achievements over his ten-year tenure.
Official economic statistics from government agencies including the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) largely anchor down Kibaki’s economic transformation agenda.
An economy five times larger
Between 2003 and December 2012, Kibaki grew the size of the Kenyan economy from just over Ksh.1 trillion to Ksh.6.4 trillion, to leave behind an economy five times larger than that he found when taking office.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by a mean 5.6 per cent across the decade despite headwinds including the 2007/2008 post-election violence (PEV) which saw growth slack to 1.5 per cent, the lowest rate in Kibaki’s administration.
In 2010, Kibaki oversaw a 10 per cent GDP growth, the highest level of growth since the turn of the 21st Century and a feat yet to be achieved since.
The Thika Superhighway and the Vision 2030 are some of the standout projects highlighted by many observers of the Kibaki administration.
However, for James Muraguri, the CEO of the Institute of Public Finance Kenya (IPF Kenya), the provision of free primary education is Kibaki’s biggest milestone, arguing it set the path for the rest of the transformation journey.
“For me, the introduction of free primary education was a show of goodwill and indicated that the transformation journey was a possibility,” he said.
Robert Kusewa, an economist, meanwhile credits President Kibaki with the overhaul of revenue collection which helped his government mobilise adequate funding to kickstart the country’s infrastructure development.
“His first job was to close off holes in revenue collection which had allowed the pilferage of funds by the previous administration allowing the country to obtain funds to finance infrastructure,” he said.
“In just five years, President Kibaki did what no one could previously. Today, we see the continuation of Kibaki’s infrastructure agenda by President Uhuru Kenyatta.”
Kibaki’s economic achievements were achieved on the back of considerable fiscal discipline as Kenya strived to live within its means by greatly relying on revenues to fund its budget.
While his administration still doubled levels of public debt in the 10 years, the stock of debt closed off the period at Ksh.1.77 trillion or just 28 per cent of GDP according to CBK statistics.
At the end of 2002, Kenya’s debt stock stood at a lower Ksh.629.6 billion but was comparatively nearly 70 per cent of GDP at the time.
Kibaki as the economist was largely seen to have been successful in putting his learnings at the London School of Economics in the 1950s and his time as Finance Minister between 1969 and 1982 to practice.
“I don’t know if anyone will match Kibaki’s management of public finances. Kibaki as an economist was able to keep the creditors at bay and neither local banks nor external ones became part and parcel of his administration,” added James Muraguri.