Discourse continues to take shape after Henry Rotich delivered the much awaited budget for the year 2013/14. While some delve on the manner in which he delivered it, (via his Ipad), others choose to note that he didn’t once sip from the bottles of water that stood beside him, for the first 58 minutes of his presentation. Others will agree that it has been hard to assess the viability of the budget at this particular point. The latter is my concern.
We must applaude the government for exemplifying its commitment towards the LAPSSET (Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport) project which stands to benefit Kenya as well as the larger East African Community. An allocation of 3.7B was made to cater for subsidiary projects within it. The budgect further withdraws the former taxing made on materials that will be used to build a two-gauge railway network from Mombasa all the way to kisumu, which is estimated to cost about 22 billion shillings.
Social workers have not been left behind with plans to expand their coverage being laid, and a further 97.9 billion set aside for the continued road expansion and upgrading instituted during Kibaki’s tenure. 1.2 billion shillings has been set apart for the financing of 2000 housing units under the National Housing Corporation (NHC).
We all have favourite parts in presentations. Mine, for this budget was the 8 billion shillings set apart to cater for irrigation projects currently taking place across the country. For instance, a whopping 3.6 billion shillings has been allocated for the first phase of a one-million acre irrigation project in Galana. These irrigation projects will see a creation of over 3 million job, with their completion. This is probably one of those avenues through which President Uhuru seeks to pull 10 million kenyans out of poverty during his tenure. (Yes, I know. Its very controversial.)
Kenyans will be watching to see whether the price per unit of consumption of energy goes down. This is after an injection of 78.5 billion shillings to the energy sector, and considering the feats achieved in geothermal energy, high expectations rest within the hearts of many Kenyans. (KPLC we are watching.)
Now lets focus on the other side of the coin. Throughout their campaigns, the Deputy President was on record challenging the fiscal deficit, and claiming that it should be lowered to below 5 per cent. But the budget now has a fiscal deficit of 7.9 per cent with plans to reduce it through foreign financing. The rate of inflation currently stands at 4.05 per cent, which was a fall from the previous year. But the budget projects inflation to fall between 5 to 7 per cent. What Henry Rotich failed to tell us is that the budget would raise the level of inflation! VAT will also be re-introduced, and the class of citizens which stands to bear its burden, is of course, the ordinary kenyan. A staggering 17 billion shillings was allocated to achieve the ‘laptop dream’, which untill recently, many thought was a Jubilee campaign tool. Now, the less I talk about the laptops, the better.
I must say Henry scored higher than his predecessors. First, he goes down into history books as the first Cabinet Secretary to cause the exit of the Speaker and his mane, so as to deliver the budget on the floor of the house. But even so, he faces a litmus test on whether his 1.7 trillion budget proves ‘too ambitious’ or ‘achievable too’, just like his bosses’ win. But only time will tell.