Funding is an increasingly significant challenge for individuals, organizations, and even governments. Haven’t you felt the heat in your finances recently? Recently, In Kenya, Kenyans were practically breaking the internet with conversations about the 2024-25 financial year budget. Frustrated citizens dominated the conversation, feeling the government is simply exploiting their already strained finances. The Kenyan government, in its defense, argues that citizens must fund government projects and day-to-day operations. Whether the government is justified or using the money effectively is beyond the scope of this article because I am not permitted to speak on behalf of Netizens 😊

My first encounter with budget discussions came in Standard 4 (Grade 4). During the parliamentary budget reading, all students gathered around a wooden radio for a session we called “broadcasting.” How I miss those days! Patriotism was at an all-time high. I don’t know why they played the song “Kila mtu atauchukua mzigo wake” (Swahili for “Each person shall carry their burden”) by the Arusha Gospel Choir just before the reading. It’s the only thing I remember from the “broadcasting” session because the finance minister’s jargon went way over my abilities.

Since then, a lot has changed. Public engagement, in addition to creative tax strategies and the often-theatrical behavior of Members of Parliament, comprises the changes. For years after the budget reading, we relied on newspapers to analyze the budget. They would present data with sensational headlines like “Bread, Beer, Cigarettes and Omena Gain Big as Village Farmers and Second-Hand Clothes Traders Lose.” That was all the public knew. Budget conversations ended there. This is no longer the case.

Within weeks of the budget reading, various individuals had already analyzed the bill’s contents. Clear, summarized versions of the bill were readily available in various media formats and channels including in Tik Tok. Subsequently, intense discussions erupted about the bill’s impact on the public and why Parliament might need to reject it. Unlike previous governments, the current one cannot simply present the budget as a done deal. The public is now actively interested in the conversation and shaping decisions around national finances. In governance, this is called public participation, and in communications, it’s called stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest in an organization, or those the organization has an interest in (Freeman, 1984). These can be individuals, groups, or other organizations (Tarode & Shrivastava, 2022). Stakeholders are crucial because their actions can determine an organization’s success or failure (Cornelissen, 2014; Freeman, 1984; Tarode & Shrivastava, 2022).

The concept of stakeholder engagement gained prominence in stakeholder literature in the 2000s. This arose from the need to differentiate between the existing one-sided stakeholder management and a more balanced approach that considers the interests of both the stakeholders and the organization (Kujala et al., 2022). If we consider Kenya as an entity and its citizens as stakeholders, then the government should take a keen interest in what its stakeholders are saying regarding the finance bill.

While the government has the power to push its agenda, the overall success of its endeavors will largely depend on public support. That’s why I urge anyone with any level of influence in the government to consider the outcome of stakeholder engagement activities during the budget-making process. In politics, One Man, who claims to be Truthful, will call stakeholder engagement as the act of listening to the ground where the ground refers to stakeholders. For now, it is better to better what is better.

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