Light at the end of the tunnel heading into 2017

By David Wanjala The year 2016, like all others before it, has finally come to an end. It has been one with a mixed bag of fortunes with a stunted economy being the only constant. I want us to close our eyes, mute our awareness to all the evils that have afflicted us, both real and perceived, and focus on the positive from which we should draw inspiration to face 2017. First, 2017, being an election year, is bound to be ever more unpredictable, the more reason we should stride into it with positive energy, even if imagined. So, what is it for you in Kenya’s 2016 economic assessment that would inspire you into 2017? What is the one thing that government got right, that could be your stepping stone into the New Year? I do not know about you. For me, however, it is the bluff President Kenyatta called not only on the commercial banks, but also on both the Central Bank and the Treasury on interest rates. The President defied all counsel from CBK Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge and Treasury CS Henry Rotich against signing the Banking  Act (Amendment) Bill into law, effectively capping interest rates and grinding to a halt the skyrocketing cost of bank loans that were steadily degenerating into shylocking, with some charging as high as 26% per annum. The CBK, the Treasury and Commercial banks had argued the law would affect the banking sector and, in the long run hurt the economy, promising to self regulate. The President would however, rightly so, hear none of it, signing the Bill into law. True, there was some turbulence, mostly from the reaction of commercial banks that were caught napping by the turn of events. They cancelled loan applications whose approvals were in the offing and reclassified most of their former clients as high risk, effectively removing them from the eligibility lists. Three months on however, things are beginning to normalize. I am alive to the fact that banks have been restructuring and laying off staff, but I am also hopeful we will soon reach an equilibrium and the market will stabilize. That at rates of 14% per annum or 1.2% on average per month, more people will access loans, plough them back into the economy, employ people and create more wealth and banks will reemploy as they embrace bit-by-bit profits from economies of scale. Already, Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) has reviewed its coast of loans to 3.0% above the CBR. As such, the Corporation charges interest on loan facilities at 13% on average, 1% below the commercial banks’ lending rate of 14%. In so doing, the Corporation’s management cited the need to help young businesses and entrepreneurs at various stages of their business cycle to spur growth by leveraging on the medium and long-term loans offered by ICDC. This, so far, is the surest indicator that already the market is stabilizing and, indeed, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

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