The feedback by Parliament's Budget and Appropriation Committee that the Budget Policy Statement released on Wednesday has glaring gaps should be an eye-opener to policy wonks in Government. In short, the MPs - not known to exercise financial prudence when it comes to public finance- have expressed a lack of confidence in the budget. Did the mandarins at Treasury interrogate pressing issues facing the country?
It is outrageous that the 2018/19 Budget Policy Statement has no connection with the Big Four agenda, President Uhuru Kenyatta's legacy blueprint. Kenyans are desperate for solutions in affordable housing, food security and jobs. Lack of clear plans of the projects that will deliver Mr Kenyatta’s agenda and the timelines in which the projects will materialise or which level of government will be held responsible is quite worrying.
Yet it was also disheartening that MPs chose to award themselves additional money on not so serious activities such as leisure and sports. What are the MPs' priorities?
Faces of starving families seeking at least a meal for a day should have moved the MPs to ensure that those a the bottom are cushioned from such calamities like drought and femine. Rather than go for very long-term projects that only attract additional borrowing, the budget should have focused on projects that have a quick turn-around. Projects that create jobs and spreads wealth around.
Additionally, corruption remains a challenge and without adequate plans on not just how to wisely spend public funds, but how to seal the loopholes that lead to theft and wastage, we are justified to be concerned. For example, the absorption of development funds remains too low and has always provided window for misappropriation and wastage. How will that be handled differently this time? Unless that is thrashed, we will be throwing good money after bad.
As June draws closer, planners must come clear on why the budget has been growing year in year out with little to show on the ground. Like all investors, Kenyans want to see a predictable Return on Investment pattern.
As has been suggested by the budget committee, the Big Four agenda should be reworked to draw down the list of projects and timelines of delivery. Perennial problems such as drought and food shortages should be addressed in the budget clearly to offer a solution within reasonable time.
A proper mix of long-term and short-term projects should therefore be well thought if citizens are to appreciate the 2018/2019 budget.