Big Four set to gobble up Sh560 billion in two years

Dr. Sam Njiru, a neurosurgeon, performs a surgery to remove tumor from the head of Joseph Karuri,33. Mr. Karuri was among four patients who underwent awake craniotomy- surgery of the brain when he was still fully awake on October 4, 2018 at the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital. [Photo: Courtesy]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy project will gobble up over half a trillion shillings in just two financial years, putting a strain on the country’s revenues.

The Government will need at least Sh560 billion to actualise universal healthcare (UHC), food security and nutrition, job creation and low cost housing in the Big Four Agenda between June 2019 and June 2021.

And with Treasury kick-starting the budget-making process, different sector groups have been making requisitions for enablers of the ambitious agenda.

The Ministry of Health, in its Sector Budget Proposal, wants Sh218 billion for UHC. The money will be used to finance initiatives including free maternity health services - Linda Mama - and subsidies for the poor, elderly, vulnerable groups and persons with mental illness.

Funding will also include subsidies for secondary school children and will also be used to reform informal healthcare by reducing out of pocket payment for medical services.

“To support delivery of UHC, the sector prioritises improving quality of healthcare through continued revamping and expansion of health infrastructure,” said Health Principal Secretary Peter Tum in the Health Sector Working Group Report.

“In addition, focus will also be on establishment of centres of excellence in health, health commodity storage centres, new specialized health facilities and laboratories.”

The Government has so far allocated the Health ministry Sh92 billion for the 2019 financial year, leaving it with a deficit of Sh126 billion. The funds will also be used to build human resource capacity at all levels of the healthcare system.

The Agricultural, Rural and Urban Development Sector Group asked for Sh349 billion to help it realise the Big Four Agenda, but Treasury only allocated it Sh128.3 billion in the three financial years.

“Given the resource constraints, the sector has prioritised implementation of the Big Four initiatives within the allocation of Sh40.6 billion, Sh42.7 billion and Sh45 billion in financial years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 respectively,” said the report.

The sector, which touches on agriculture, land and housing, is a major contributor to the Big Four agenda.

Treasury estimates that the country needs at least Sh200 billion every year to finance all the projects under the Big Four agenda.

And with the Government running out of borrowing space, it has since sought to enlist the help of the private sector towards President Uhuru Kenyatta’s dream.

So keen has the President been on his pet project that amidst dwindling revenues, he froze all new development spending, save for those related to Big Four.