Experts: The Big Four agenda faces hurdles

Experts who advise Parliament on budgetary issues have poured cold water on prospects of achieving President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Big Four” agenda.

Besides that the funds allocated could be insufficient, the Parliamentary Budget Office indicated that counties were largely responsible for two of the pillars – food security and universal healthcare.

Only manufacturing and affordable housing are considered strictly a role of the national government.

Input for the PBO is supposed to help the Members of Parliament in interrogating the budget which will be presented to the National Assembly next month.

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“There is a general concern that the resources made available for implementation of the big four may not be adequate,” PBO said in its analysis of the national budget.

More than Sh450 billion has been set aside to fund the development agenda with manufacturing receiving the biggest chunk of Sh125 billion.

Affordable housing comes second at Sh103 billion, ahead of healthcare (Sh82.8 billion) and agriculture which has been allocated Sh60 billion.

Apart from size of the allocations, PBO said, citing past experience that the slow pace implementation of government projects as the biggest threat to the Big Four agenda.

“As is the case with many government projects, slow and casual implementation of big four related projects is a major hindrance to the agenda’s progress,” the experts said in their reservations.

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State offices lax

In the current financial year, poor absorption of development expenditures meant that only half of the allocated amounts had been spent on projects by March, only three months to the end of the year.

Informed fears about laxity in execution of the projects led the PBO to conclude that the present allocations could actually be excessive as the scale of execution would likely fall behind schedule.

On affordable housing project, for instance, the State plans to build 500,000 houses in five years from late 2017 but to date hardly any works have started.

With only three years remaining of President Kenyatta’s term, fears are that targets in the housing project would be missed.

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PBO further indicated that the projects to be undertaken under four-point development agenda are not entirely new, but only a continuation from yesteryears.

Improving access to healthcare, it could be argued, is a boundless exercise well into the future.

Money to counties

Top among the concerns is how the projects in primary healthcare and agriculture inducing irrigation could be achieved by the National Government without involving counties.

“There is need therefore for a clear collaborative framework between the two levels of government in order for the plan to be implemented adequately,” the report reads.

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Budgets for the agriculture sector have repeatedly been the first victim during budget cuts, undermining the most critical pillar of the economy and the enabler for food security.

A case in point identified by the experts is the decision to drop from the budgets a camel milk factory that was planned to be established in Ewaso Ng’iro.

In healthcare, the PBO said that it was unclear of the specific interventions to improve the key health infrastructure such as through provision of laboratories countrywide, specialized equipment or even health commodity storage centres.

The experts also took a swipe at the superficial attempts at cutting overall spending by embracing austerity measures.

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ParliamentParliamentary Budget OfficePBOuniversal healthcare