The American who wrote the most hated policy in Kenya (for students of politics)


This document (edited) reveals the inside story on how an American, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, came write one of the most hated policy papers in Kenya’s political history: the Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965. 2015 is also the 50th anniversary of the paper’s adoption by the Kenya parliament. The paper virtually turned Kenya into a capitalist society and paved the way for those in power to plunder the fruits of Uhuru for themselves rather than sharing it with the general wananchi. It is arguable that Kenya could have been anything other capitalist. There is a strong belief that capitalism was a conspiracy between western powers and the then Kenya government.         

 

 As the East African countries approached independence their second major concern, after that of finding the means to take effective control of government, was the development of their societies. World Bank missions to each of the three major East African territories, in their extensive and influential reports, made a strong case for establishing economic planning systems and project development units. 

In the summer of 1962, Professor Ben Lewis of Oberlin College visited East Africa as a Foundation consultant and received inquiries from all three governments about the possibility of the Foundation’s supplying economic advisory assistance. The only firm request, however, was from Kenya. The government was by no means convinced that it wished to establish a planning process at the time, as was indicated by the initial response to the submission of Edgar Edwards’ curriculum vitae: Treasury replied that Edwards was a bit more senior a man than would be needed for what they had in mind. Edwards accepted the post nevertheless and arrived in Nairobi in August 1963. 

At the time the Foundation agreed to supply this advisor, it felt that first attention should be given to the work of the East African Common Services Organization (EACSO), to which a grant of $45, 000 for economic consultants had been made in November 1962. Supplementary to this regional focus, the Foundation anticipated that it should be prepared to offer limited high-level assistance to the planning agencies of the three countries. 

Within six months of his arrival, Edwards had convinced both the Kenya Government and the Foundation that a substantially greater effort than either had anticipated was necessary, or at least desirable. A rather rudimentary 6-year plan was produced in early 1964 by Edwards, Oliver Knowles, a Treasury official, and Michael Roemer, an M.I.T. Fellow in Africa. It was anticipated when this plan was adopted that it would be superseded by a revised plan once more economic planning competence was available and following greater elaboration of the policy objectives of the Government. Work on the revision had already begun before the 6-year plan was published. The first plan proved useful in negotiations with potential donors, which was the original government impetus for the exercise, but it also provided a framework for ministers and permanent secretaries to define their work and coordinate their efforts with other ministries. Most importantly, a Development Committee of the Cabinet, established before independence, became an active forum in which major economic issues could be discussed by the effective decision-makers. 

In July 1964, a new Directorate of Planning within the Treasury was officially established with Edwards at its head, an arrangement that made the Foundation’s representative distinctly uneasy. It was one thing to provide advice on economic planning issues, but for a Foundation employee to be responsible for the planning mechanism was outside the boundaries of its own definition of its assistance. There is also some question about the legality of supplying foreign countries with a person in a position like this under the American tax law governing philanthropic assistance. This potential difficulty was overcome when Kenya became a republic on the anniversary of its independence, and a Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (MEPD) was created. Edwards became senior advisor to the Permanent Secretary of MEPD and, in mid-1965, he left Kenya to return to Rice University. 

The creation of a separate planning ministry was typical of many newly independent African governments. Resentment of the Ministry of Finance, or the Treasury as it was commonly known, was widespread among the new leaders because it was seen as an obstacle to development. The creation of a new ministry, with a degree of autonomy from the purse-string mentality of Treasury officials, was thought to be progressive; besides, it was popular with the Bank and other donors. This mood lasted less than a decade, however, and most countries have now recombined planning with finance. 

By the time the Ministry was created, a staff of five Foundation advisors was working on planning in Kenya: three Americans, one Dutch and one Swedish. The first Minister was Tom Mboya, whose remarkable intellectual capacity and leadership skills added greatly to the impact of planning in the country. Philip Ndegwa joined government as a planning officer at about the same time. 

In 1965, the Kenya government proposed and Parliament adopted a far-reaching policy document entitled Sessional Paper No. 10, African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya. Much of the first draft of this paper was written by Edwards, a fact that has since aroused critical comment in some foreign publications. Before it reached Parliament, however, it was intensively reviewed and revised, first by an informal group chaired by Mboya with Mwai Kibaki, Ndegwa, Knowles and Edwards as members, and then by the Ministers sitting in the Development Committee. Sessional Paper No. 10 summarizes Kenya’s objectives as follows: 

1. Political equality.

2. Social justice.

3. Human dignity, including freedom of conscience.

4. Freedom from want, disease and exploitation.

5. Equal opportunities.

6. High and growing per capita incomes, equitably distributed. 

To some extent, the document represents the Government’s answer to the insistent voices in Parliament, led by Oginga Odinga and Pia Pinto, demanding more radical social change. The Sessional Paper sought to elucidate its philosophy that dignity, justice and equity need a firm basis of economic growth. 

At the same time an extensive revision of the original 6-year plan was underway, examining a number of important policy issues, including such key social policies as family planning, primary education and anticipated employment problems. 

By this time the Foundation’s interest in planning had obviously deepened. Economic decision-making was recognized to be a critical task for new governments staffed by leaders who had had little opportunity to gain training and experience in the field. The Foundation’s advisors were clearly making important contributions by helping establish sound procedures for the consideration of development projects, and by advising on economic policy. The planning process was seen to be a continuing activity that would require competence unavailable locally for several additional years. The need for additional attention to plan implementation procedures, provincial and district planning and ministry-level planning was also recognized.  

In Kenya, the combination of Mboya’s dynamic and effective leadership and the concentration of economic competence in his Ministry made planning a force in Government that commanded the respect but sometimes also the envy and resentment of other ministers and civil servants. Their response to this imbalance took several forms. Perhaps the healthiest, from a developmental point of view, was to seek to develop planning competence in their own ministries, a process strongly encouraged by Mboya and his advisors. The Ministry of Agriculture sought to build up a strong internal planning unit with advisors from a variety of donors, one of whom was supplied by the Foundation. The effort enjoyed only limited success at the time and a new attempt, which will be discussed later, is currently underway. 

In another case, the Minister of Education requested the assistance of MEPD in drafting an educational policy paper without the concurrence of his own permanent secretary. This led to a struggle that went all the way to the President of the Republic before it was resolved and the draft policy paper was scrapped. 

In late 1967, the Development Committee of the Cabinet was abolished. One can only assume that this move was made in order to curb the power of Mboya and the MEPD. Thereafter, although chapters of subsequent development plans were discussed with appropriate ministerial staffs, and plans were approved by Cabinet, there was little serious discussion of critical economic issues in the plans by economic ministers as a group. 

Perhaps the key ministry that successfully resisted genuine participa­tion in planning was the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; to this day, there is no effective professional planning and project evaluation unit in this Ministry. Major industrial investment decisions have, however, had to receive approval of MEPD and the Treasury, so cost benefit analysis has not been wholly omitted from the industrialization effort. 

Another serious disappointment to the planners was the failure of an attempt to institute cooperation between the private sector and the government through the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PADAC). PADAC met occasionally in early years but its meetings were generally unproductive. 

There is no question but that the meaningful planning activities of the Government in the first few years after independence were essentially conducted by expatriate staff and advisors. Several excellent young Kenyan economists, notably Philip Ndegwa, Harris Mule, the late Serjit Heyer, and Parmeet Singh, participated in the work and rapidly gained competence in the process. But the systematic professionalization of the planning process and the development of Kenyans to staff it could be said to have started only in October 1968, when a scheme of service for economists was inaugurated. This established a governmental career ladder for economists, statisticians, and planners that paralleled the path of advancement of other career civil servants. In 1971 there were 51 established posts in the Economic Service, apart from economists employed by parastatal corporations, but MEPD estimated that the actual requirement for government economists was 73. Only 25 qualified local officers were available for these posts. 

The minimum entry qualification for the Economic Service was an upper second-class honours degree in economics or statistics, or its equivalent. In order to enlarge the pool of qualified entrants, the Foundation supported the creation of a Bachelor of Philosophy (B. Phil.) program at the University College Nairobi in 1969 (690-0156). This was a one-year postgraduate program requiring at least a year of relevant government experience before admission. The content of the B. Phil. program was specifically geared to the development problems facing the Kenya Government. For several years the Economics Department at the University was cool to what they regarded as an excessively “applied” program, but it is now well integrated. This year (1977), for the first time, master’s degree students and B. Phil. students are taking the same course of instruction with the masters candidates remaining at the University for an additional year. 

More recently an agreement has been worked out with the Canadian government under which 6 to 8 members of the Economic Service are offered master's degree scholarships to York University in Toronto each year. By 1979 it is anticipated that between 30 and 40 Kenyans will have received York M.A.s. 

The assassination of Tom Mboya in the summer of 1969 was a tragedy of great national importance, which also set back the growth and development of the planning process in Kenya. Indeed, it is notable that after a period of shock and suspended progress, planning not only survived but has continued to play a leading role in affecting the course of Kenya’s development. 

In 1970 Edwards, who by then had served as an advisor to the government for four years and was on the Foundation’s staff in New York, and Ben Lewis, who had also joined the Foundation on a full-time basis, undertook a comprehensive review of the planning process in Kenya. They described the Foundation’s basic objective as “to assist substantially in the establishment of a lasting, effective planning process, indigenously staffed, widely spread and used throughout government,” and found it to be an objective broadly shared by the Kenya government. The report noted that the Government’s initial objectives in seeking Foundation support were considerably more modest but implied that the Foundation had the grander design in mind from the beginning. In fact, as we have seen, the Foundation’s objectives also evolved from more modest aspirations, although Ben Lewis had had the larger picture in mind since his pre-independence visit. 

A description of this program would not be complete without a word about the character of the relationships between the advisors and the Foundation, and the advisors and the Government. The Foundation has had a general policy that the professional loyalty of an advisor assigned to a government is to the government itself, and that no matters of a confidential nature are expected to be divulged to the Foundation’s representatives. Edwards and subsequent advisors adhered strictly to this policy, a fact that continues to be fully appreciated by the Kenya Government. In addition, the advisors supplied by the Foundation were not considered to be a team and, although there was often a recognized senior economist among them, there was no designated team leader Throughout the life of the program, no professional meetings were held in which only Foundation advisors were in attendance, and no attempt was made to coordinate the views or advice of the advisory staff. 

The Foundation also cooperated in minor ways with the new East African Staff College. This program, ably led by Guy Hunter in 1964-5, sought to train high-level government administrators and both public and private sector managers from all three countries. It became a peripatetic institution, holding courses in each country in rotation. The Foundation was asked to consider contributing to a permanent site for the College, and to finance a research arm, but both ideas ran into government or university resistance before they could be seriously entertained for funding. 

From time to time the Foundation supplied consultants or project specialists to facilitate the staff work of special investigatory commissions in Kenya. John Seal, for example, was the principal staff man for the Ndegwa Commission, which undertook the most far-reaching revision of public service rules that has occurred in independent Kenya. Consulting services were also provided to the Commission under a Foundation contract with API, a California-based consulting firm headed by Edward Rubin, erstwhile staff development advisor in Tanzania. 

As the decade of the 1960s drew to a close, the Foundation’s support for public administration specialists diminished rapidly. The main task of the Africanization of the public service and the establishment of procedures and institutions for its maintenance had essentially been accomplished. No great satisfaction was felt in the level of performance of the public service but the machinery was in place for the Kenyans to make use of as they wished.