Saturday, June 24, 2023

The balance of power and the betrayal of the law

The United States is not a sophisticated constitutional republic; it is a sophisticated banana republic. The difference between the US and South Sudan is that the Democrats Party and Republican Party don't have armed militias waging war in in the streets to control the Houses of Congress. But in every other dysfunctional respect, the US is a banana republic and nothing demonstrates this more than the idiocy over the "debt ceiling" and how it affects that full faith and credit of the US federal government.

Mr Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the US House of Representative is a petty, small-minded, vindictive, self-serving politicians who is so afraid of his shadow it is a wonder he keeps track of anything that goes on with his dysfunctional caucus consisting of racists, misogynists, child molesters, gun fetishists and environmental vandals. So it comes as a bit of a shock when the US federal government is paraded as a paragon of fiscal rectitude when it comes to the apparently knotty problem of "raising the debt ceiling".

When Kenyans point to various bits of the US federal government when trying to explain why the national government has done, such comparisons must be made while carving out massive swathes of customs, traditions and local corruptions. Kenya has a form of presidential system but still relies a whole lot on older parliamentary system customs. It is why even Kenyan parliamentarians continue to speak of the "Government" and "the Opposition" as distinct political realities despite the fact that no one in the executive sits in parliament and no parliamentarian sits in the executive.

When trying to work out why Kenya's public debt is "out of control", one needs to look at both the constitutional arrangement of government and the ways in which individual political forces have ignored, misinterpreted and undermined those constitutional arrangements. President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga did much to undermine the constitution and in so doing laid the foundation for the out-of-control public borrowing of the past twelve years. President William Ruto doesn't appear to have a free hand in handling the situation so he has chosen to follow the same through line laid by President Kenyatta in the relationship between the executive and parliament.

Consequently, parliament continues to play a rubber-stamp role when it comes to approving the national budget, setting the stage for further unsustainable public borrowing. Though the Parliamentary Budget Office continues to offer cogent and meaningful analysis of public expenditure and public investment proposals, its work is largely symbolic as it does not appear as if parliament uses those analyses to inform its consideration and approval of the national budget.

Commentators have opined that the law is the straitjacket that will address the excess of the national government. They are right only in part. The law is meaningless if the people it is meant to guide, especially parliamentarians, don't believe that the law is a sufficient tool in dealing with the public debt. If they did, the first thing would to transform parliament into the institution it was intended to be by the framers of the Second Liberation Constitution: an institution that checks the power of the executive and moderates the more reckless instincts of members of the Cabinet. So long as parliamentarians believe that they are beholden to the president, and the president's financial war chest, parliament will not play any meaningful role in rolling back the excessive borrowing by the executive, even if it means that the looming economic crisis harms everyone, parliamentarians included.

No comments:

Go away.

A short video doing the rounds on social media shows former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and former Mombasa senator Omar Hasan changing wo...