As you have almost certainly surmised by dint of the fact that you are reading this, the world did not come to an end on Saturday. 89 year old Harold Camping, a Christian evangelist broadcaster for the ‘Family Radio’ station in the United States, had predicted that the world would end on Saturday at 6pm (we couldn’t find out whether that was 6pm Kenya time or US Eastern Standard time or GMT). Advertising hoardings in Kenya heralded ‘The Trumpet is Sounding – Are You Ready?’ People prayed, one Kenyan man even committed suicide by hanging himself in his local church, but the much awaited ‘rapture’, when the world would be destroyed by a giant earthquake and good Christian souls would be taken up to heaven’ didn’t happen.
The Forum would just love to have heard Family Radio’s breakfast show on Sunday 22nd May after their prediction that the end of the world was nigh was shown to be so much bunkum: “Yes, here we are again folks. I know we said the world would end yesterday but sorry about that and here’s a message from our sponsor…” Mr Camping had previously prophesied doomsday in 1994 and now the poor man’s got it wrong again. But as wide-of-the-target predictions go we can do better than that in Kenya, just read ‘Vision 2030’.
The latest edition of the internationally renowned Economist magazine noted that Kenya’s economy picked up to 5.6 per cent growth in 2010 and forecasts point to ‘around 5 per cent’ growth in 2011. That’s good. Many countries would give their left leg for 5 per cent growth, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (known collectively as the PIIGS), to name but five of them. But 5 per cent growth is not the 10 per cent, per year, every year, for the 25 years of Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030’.
A Forum contributor has worked out that if Kenya’s economy had grown, and were to grow, by an average of 5 per cent a year for 24 of the years envisaged in ‘Vision 2030’, and assuming there was no inflation at all to diminish the value of real growth, then the country’s economy would need to grow in the 29th of the ‘Vision’ (2029) by 346 per cent in one year to meet the target!
Despite this, politicians, ambassadors and ‘civil society’ leaders still pay lip service to ‘Vision 2030’. The latest to do so is retiring US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger.
Perhaps because he is retiring Ranneberger doesn’t seem to care what he says. In an interview with the Young Kenyan Leader His Excellency stated assuredly that, “unless the Kenyan economy grows at least 10 per cent per year… it won’t grow fast enough to accommodate all [the] jobs [needed to employ young Kenyans]. The only way you are going to get those jobs is for the economy to grow that fast.”
Michael Ranneberger may have been a good ambassador (surely the jury is still out on that one?) but he is obviously no economist, unless of course he can point to a country that has achieved 10 per cent GDP growth, on average, every year, for 25 years.
The Economist was somewhat more realistic. ‘The trouble is’, wrote their unnamed Nairobi correspondent of Kenya’s economic difficulties, the ‘infrastructure, especially at the port of Mombasa, is still a mess. The power supply is unreliable, corruption is rife and labour costs, relative to workers’ productivity, are quite high’.
For Kenya to become what its leaders say they aspire to be by 2030, let’s deal with the reality, says The Forum. Cut the fanciful, unrealistic dreams of ‘civil society’, the international community and some Kenyan politicians. Let’s be practical and realistic. Provide the electricity, provide the water, mend the roads, improve education, end the corruption, and give ordinary people the chance to succeed, then we will achieve a real vision in our lifetime.
As a prophecy, 10 per cent GDP growth per year until 2030 is somewhat less likely than the angels blowing their trumpets to herald His return to earth at any time over the next 18 or so years.