As early as 1963, the Government acknowledged that poverty, disease, and illiteracy were a major constraint to human development. The strategies for handling these bottlenecks are reflected in various national development plans, sessional papers, and other policy documents.
The early years of independence were characterised by rapid economic growth. A high economic growth rate that averaged 6.6 per cent occurred between 1964 and 1972 and this dropped only slightly to 5.2 per cent between 1974 and 1979.
It was the steep decline in economic growth in the 1980s and the 1990s that jolted the Government into focusing on the growing poverty within the country.
In Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1986 on Economic Management for Renewed Growth and by the adoption of the Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) project, the Government undertook specific measures to deal with mounting poverty. The surveys were meant to gauge the socio- economic effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPS).
Through the first and second WMS in 1992 and 1994, respectively, the Government realised that absolute poverty in Kenya was widespread and stood at 47 per cent in 1994. Both the third WMS of 1997 and the population census of 1999 measured absolute poverty, further giving details of this group at the constituency level.
Subsequently, the Government formulated poverty reduction strategies in a series of official documents, notably the National Poverty Eradication Plan 1999-2015 (NPEP), the Sessional Paper No. 3 of 1999 on Poverty Eradication, and the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper of 2000-2003. Ultimately, the Government adopted the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 2001-2004.
In adopting both the interim and the subsequent poverty reduction strategy paper, the Government called for collaboration with development partners such as the international community, the private sector, and civil society organisations to assist its efforts in tackling the challenges of poverty.
In a number of participatory poverty assessment (PPA) surveys carried out in the 1990s, the poor attributed their condition to natural calamities and traditions and cultural beliefs that deny women access to productive assets.
Past development strategies
Between 1964 and 1973, the economy grew steadily and rapidly at an average rate of 6.5 per cent. However, in 1973, the international oil crisis led to slackened growth, which slowed to 5 per cent per annum, with little change in per capita incomes.
Kenya encountered a serious balance of payments deficit as a result of the decision by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase oil prices. This period heralded the beginning of intensive economic policy discussions between Kenya and the Bretton Woods institutions — the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The period 1976-86 witnessed the intensification of these problems, which culminated in the drawing up of Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1986 on Economic Management for Renewed Growth. This policy document set out to renew economic recovery and growth through a process of liberalisation
The sessional paper proposed a number of fiscal and monetary policy reforms that were far-reaching in terms of further opening up the economy. It set off the process of undertaking institutional and structural reforms in the economy.
In 2000, the economy registered a negative growth of 0.2 per cent but recovered to a modest growth of 1.2 per cent in 2001.
All the sectors, save for construction and building, recorded positive growth. Transport, storage, and communication had the highest growth of 3.1 per cent while agriculture and manufacturing recorded 1.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively. Government investment in education, health, and other social services rose from $900 million in the 2000/2001 financial year to about $1.1 million in 2001/2002.
The social dimensions of the development programme
The Social Dimensions of Development (SDD) programme launched in 1994 recognised that the institutional and economic reforms of the 1980s had reduced the provision of basic needs for the poor, resulting in the loss of jobs, erosion of purchasing power, and reduction/removal of a number of important government subsidies. The aim of the programme was, therefore, to cushion the poor against the adverse effects engendered by the economic reforms of the 1980s.
Despite the Government’s commitment to the SDD programme, exemplified by the allocation of Ksh5.58 million in the 1994/95 budget, the funds were not sufficient and a significant amount of the money was spent on non-poverty alleviation projects. Therefore, the poor did not feel its impact and increasing numbers drifted into poverty.