Media, they say, is the lifeblood of any functional democracy. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson, long before he was elected to White House said “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
However, his view of the media changed soon after he entered White House.
He reckoned that the partisan nature of media reporting had rendered the truth suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle (media organisations).
Fast forward to 2020, the Fourth Estate is viewed by many in similar lenses, something that has added succour to perceptions of many towards the media organisations.
The media has been accused by different stakeholders of priming news stories or events in an effort to influence the perceptions of their audience, and perhaps more importantly, align reporting with the whims of their owners. This is true of the recent media discourse – mostly print media – in Kenya where the performance record of President Uhuru Kenyatta, particularly on the economy, has generated a pattern of tirade from a section of media personalities, pundits, and other opinion leaders.
These accusations are meant to portray the administration (and its leadership) as lacklustre. The skewed commentaries have also implicitly called for the removal of President Kenyatta, who also doubles up as the CEO for the East Africa’s largest economy.
But is the characterisation of the incumbent administration fair? And, will the mooted revolution cure the economic headwinds and other shortcomings of the administration?
My response to the above concerns takes both a pragmatic as well as a moralistic slant. Pragmatically, I must begin by admitting that it would be hypocritical to claim that there are no issues, whether political, economic or social in nature that deserve to be corrected either by the incumbent administration or collectively, by all Kenyans.
Issues to do with poverty, diseases, impunity or even corruption are not novel, nor are they esoteric to Kenya. Indeed, every administration since independence has faced similar problems and responded to them variously. The fact that these same challenges persist today, does not necessarily translate to inaction on the part of the government, rather it is mostly a manifestation of evolving developmental needs of nation-states. Most of the challenges that assume multiple faces take longer to resolve.
At best, most countries respond through lessening their impact on the society, rather than offering a final solution. Take for instance infrastructure. Every administration has dedicated resources to address the country’s infrastructural needs, but we have never reached the saturation point.
In fact, infrastructural-related challenges continue to grow given the socio-economic and political changes.
There are other significant challenges that this administration is facing of which mechanisms have been put in place to mitigate. I would take the claims of underperformance with a pinch of salt.
Describing Kenya’s economy as being in a state of paralysis merely because of what I would call transitional economic headwinds, is injudicious and myopic.
To demonstrate that administration may not be badly off, the current economic data ranks the incumbent administration only second to that of the founding President Jomo Kenyatta, with an average growth rate pegged at about 5.7 percent in the last 6 years.
Jomo’s administration recorded an average of about 7 per cent growth rate. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s figures are stellar compared to former presidents – Mwai Kibaki’s average of five per cent and Daniel Moi’s 3.2 per cent.
The above statistics are buttressed by an exponential increase in foreign direct investment, estimated for the year 2019 at about Sh300 billion by the reputable UK’ Financial Times.
This represents a substantial increase from about Sh178 billion recorded in 2010, according to statistics compiled by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
The rise in FDI represents a positive outcome of the structural reforms the government has been undertaking. In addition, Kenya made remarkable progress on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, jumping to position 56 out of the 190 countries.
This again is a marked improvement given that as at the time the incumbent administration came to power in 2013, Kenya was at position 129 out of the 190 countries.
The positive improvement in the ease of doing business can be credited to simplified procedures for business creation, shortened time of processing, simplified processes to register property, strengthened access to credit among many other reforms.
Additionally, there is sustained investment on the infrastructure, especially expansion of Mombasa and Lamu Ports and the attendant infrastructure networks, the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to the inland port in Naivasha (currently under construction) among others which have a huge potential to turn-around the EAC’s largest economy.
The aforementioned economic strides have served to illustrate that whereas challenges such as skills shortage in certain specialised areas, low project execution rate, and corruption still abound, which is the case in most of the countries from developing areas, there has been positive and therefore impactful developments that have been achieved by the current administration.
Thus, whereas it is every citizen’s right to demand accountability from their elected leaders, it should not be done in a manner that rings disrespect for a leader, or worse, the offices these leaders occupy. Otherwise, this amounts to not only being unpatriotic but also servile.
The scorched-earth manner of the attacks targeting the government point to a deliberate and desperate effort by a few ill-intentioned elements who are out to paint everything the government does black, and does little to promote the justification of ethical journalism, which entails commitment to pursuit of truth.
Indeed, every journalist, whether acting as a private citizen or professional journalist, should be guided by Hegelian call of all citizens to be subservient to the state and not rise above it.
The state, according to Georg W F Hegel, is the highest form of social existence, and thus should be considered the absolute. As such, all citizens have a moral duty to obey it, or all together renounce their contractual obligations.