April 19, 2013
Uhuru Kenyatta has set an ambitious agenda as Kenya's new president, but pulling together enough money to realise the promises laid out in his Jubilee Coalition manifesto will be difficult, analysts say.
Upon taking office April 9th, Kenyatta told the nation that his government would serve all Kenyans equally, regardless of their economic status or political leanings.
He vowed to create one million jobs annually, put the country's economy on a path of double-digit growth every year, provide free milk for every primary schoolchild and set aside a million acres of land for modern irrigation.
Among other points in his inaugural speech, Kenyatta said his administration would revamp Kenya's education system by building more schools and aligning curricula with job market needs.
Kenyatta said that during his first 100 days in office, his administration would abolish maternity fees, give all Kenyans free access to public health centres and ensure that all incoming class one students get a solar-powered laptop.
He said the government also would re-invest 6 billion shillings ($71.59 million), which had been allocated for a potential presidential election run-off, into establishing a fund for interest-free loans for women and youths.
In his speech at the opening of the 11th Parliament on Tuesday (April 16th), Kenyatta reiterated his commitment to creating jobs for youth and women.
"Among our youth, unemployment is as high as 70%," he said. "For far too long this, our national resource, has received insufficient attention and the energy and time of our youth have been wasted through alcohol and drug abuse. We must work together to put measures in place to harness the time and talents of our youth in order to grow our economy."
To help pay for this, the Jubilee Coalition government annually plans to allocate 2.5% of national revenue towards a Youth Development Fund, as well as increase funding for schools by 1% so that spending on education will account for 32% of the government's expenditure by 2018, according to the party's manifesto.
However, financing most of the programmes stated in the Jubilee manifesto will be a tall order for Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, said Billow Kerrow, an economist and senator representing Mandera County.
While the promised programmes could greatly improve the welfare of citizens, some of the new administration's goals are unrealistic and unachievable within its self-imposed timetables, Kerrow told Sabahi.
The Kenyatta administration is inheriting a government with increased spending needs but less cash coming in through revenue, he said. Funding the newly created 47 county governments and dozens of new public institutions has swollen the governmental payroll, Kerrow said, adding that salaries for civil servants rose to 458 billion shillings ($5.5 billion) in 2013, nearly double the level in 2009.
Kenyatta has not made clear what options are open to his administration for funding its proposed programmes, given that Kenya has no new or near future income streams, such as revenue from oil and natural resources, said Njuguna Kiarie, economics lecturer at Daystar University in Nairobi.
"No development partner has offered help to support the programmes, which means that the country has to raise the money internally to fund them," Kiarie told Sabahi.
Plans to reduce or abolish some business taxes, while offering interest-free loans to youths and women, will make it harder to find money to pay for the programmes framed by Kenyatta's agenda, he said.
Over the long term, the success and sustainability of Kenyatta's programmes will depend on the economy's performance, which grew last year by 4.3%, an increase of only 0.3% from the previous year's performance, Kiarie said.
Yet the president's first and most pressing order of business should be to focus on uniting the country and reaching out to regions that did not vote for him to assure them of their place in his plans, Kiarie said.
"The president needs the goodwill of all the people, and burying any bad feelings created during the campaign time will help him succeed in his programmes," he said.
Rushing to implement some of these promised programmes could do more harm than good by compromising the quality of delivered services, said Ibrahim Rashid Ahmed, a Nairobi-based development consultant and director of Hashi Investment Agency.
For example, abolishing maternity services fees during Kenyatta's first 100 days in power could cause problems if no structure is in place for delivering such a service, he told Sabahi. Most government-run health facilities are too ill-equipped and understaffed to handle the surge of people who would likely take advantage of the offer of free services, Ahmed said.
In order to spur easy access to markets from Kenya's various counties, he said, the Kenyatta administration should give priority to expanding the nation's network of paved roads to 24,000 kilometres from the current 11,000 kilometres of tarmacked routes.
Kenyans said they would give the government the benefit of doubt in its bid to accelerate growth, reduce the high cost of living and create jobs.
With the abolition of fees for health services, Susan Nyanchama, a pregnant 37-year-old farmer from Kisii, said she felt encouraged to take advantage of free care.
"I am expecting to deliver in five months. While it is good that the maternity fee will be abolished in time for my delivery, I would like the government to make it clear what the maternity fee entails because we have prenatal, delivery and postnatal health care," she told Sabahi.
Despite having reservations, Douglas Juma, a 24-year-old water vendor in Nairobi, said he was hopeful.
"In his inaugural speech, Ruto said the government will work toward creating jobs for the youths," he said. "I hope it is not hot air because I am looking forward to a job before the year ends."
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