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Raila-Ruto promises: Show us the money

DP William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga. [File, Standard]

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) last week announced its full year revenue collection figures and the amount they collected was unprecedented.

The taxman managed to collect Sh2.031 trillion – a first in the country. The amount was Sh148.9 billion above their original target. However, it falls short of the Sh3.3 trillion budget the National Treasury has planned to spend in the next one year.

So, where will the money come from to fund the lofty ideas presidential candidates are selling throughout the country?

When President Kibaki assumed the reigns, for a majority of Kenyans it was a new beginning for the country – one where their troubles would end after much suffering under the Kanu regime.

However, in an admission, Kibaki said he had inherited empty coffers and it would take time to grow the pie before sharing it out.

The same was the script by the Jubilee government. They promised, among other things, laptops for schoolchildren and to irrigate a million acres of land. The promises were never fulfilled.

Financing is a critical element of coming up with a manifesto. Unlike in the previous elections where party and tribe took centre stage, the recent opinion polls indicate Kenyans will select leaders based on issues and pledges they make.

Prof Kaburu Kinoti, a scholar who consults for the Azimio One-Kenya alliance, says there is a realistic chance of the Raila Odinga-led coalition meeting its promises by prioritising the social protection programmes in the budget.

According to Prof Kinoti, the coalition will take money from other budget votes on the immediate term as it implements a raft of measures to grow the national cake.

“Promises by the Azimio alliance can be realised because they were thought through vis a vis the budget. The government will put an emphasis on social protection programmes by reallocating money from other sectors," he says.

"For example, if the roads budget is Sh100 billion, the government can get Sh25 billion and the roads that were to be constructed in this financial year will be deferred to the next one. The heavy infrastructural projects are already in place so no one suffers.”

He said the money lost to corruption can be channelled into these promises in the manifesto; therefore funding will not be a headache.

“The Azimio leaders have made a good pledge on fight against corruption and they are serious on it. Money lost in corruption is a lot and once these leakages are sealed there will be enough to fund the budget,” says Kinoti.

"In the medium and long term, the way to go will be growing the cake and this will be done by expanding the tax net to have more people pay so that the cake is big enough.”

Kinoti derides what the Kenya Kwanza alliance is planning by claiming the hustler fund is a different name for funds already in existence and that they will have bigger problems in fulfilling their promises.

How to seal loopholes

“The bottom-up model is not addressing how the pie will be grown. It is picking money from different funds in existence and renaming it Hustler Fund. They are also not cogent on how loopholes used for pilfering public funds will be sealed. The approach that they will stop criminalising corruption fight is a way of emasculating the agencies that fight corruption,” he says.

Kenya Kwanza consultant Edward Kisiangani avers that the surest way to fund their lofty manifesto is by growing the tax base. That once the hustler understands the value of paying taxes the revenue will grow.

However, since that is a long-term measure, Prof Kisiangani says curbing wastage and reining in corruption will be of priority to the William Ruto-led coalition to getting the money to fund their pledges.

“The problem in government is that there are many projects that go on that are not budgeted for. They are done on the whims of the Executive and on many occasions money is lost. We are going to stick to what has been planned and budgeted for," he says.

There is money in the country, the only problem is it is misspent. The other problem that has to come to an end is budgeted corruption. If we can bring this to an end there will be money to be spent on priority areas."

Kisiangani gives the example of the SGR, which he says began with Sh327 billion. However, midway through the project the amount kept rising.

"We are going to stop budgeted corruption and the money from that will fund the government projects,” he says.

Prof Kisiangani says the Kenya Kwanza alliance will also get revenue from the politically correct groups that do big business but do not pay taxes.

“They are getting rich from taxes and once they begin to pay, money will be available. An example is Rwanda that digitised its VAT collection. Before it was only getting three per cent, but once they digitised they now collect more than 80 per cent of VAT revenue. Is this going to fund the manifesto?” Kisiangani asked.

Like Prof Kinoti, Kisiangani believes growing the tax base will be of essence if they are going to generate enough money.

Criminalised certain jobs

“The problem in this country is that we have criminalised certain jobs. For example, instead of endearing ourselves to the mama mboga’s and the hawkers all we do is rough them up. Why can’t we make them comfortable enough to remit their dues?" says Kisiangani.

"Growing other economies through value-addition will definitely get more people paying. So we have come up with many ways that will grow the pie to be shared.”

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said Kenya Kwanza has set out clear guidelines on funding of their mega manifesto projects.

"Kenya Kwanza has a clear road map on funding of all its mega projects, but we are going to avoid over-borrowing to fund our projects so as not to overburden Kenyans with foreign debts," said Duale. He said each project is well explained in the manifesto on how it would be funded.

The four presidential candidates are concentrating on five key issues to define their campaigns as the race enters the homestretch.

Raila Odinga (Azimio la Umoja One Kenya), Deputy President William Ruto (UDA), George Wajackoyah (Roots Party), and David Mwaure (Agano Party) have prioritised health, education, agriculture, women, and youth empowerment in their manifestos.

Whether these issues will sway the voters to their favour or otherwise is a question will answer at the ballot on August 9.