Raila-Ruto talks team agrees on five issues, retreats to write report

National Dialogue Committee co-chair Kalonzo Musyoka. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The National Dialogue Committee concluded its final deliberations Thursday and announced it had reached a consensus on all five issues including the cost of living.

This marks the end of the 73 days of extensive engagements.

The Committee co-chairman, Kimani Ichung'wa, announced that they had made significant progress on all the agenda items.

“We have made tremendous progress and settled and agreed on all the five agenda items,” said Ichung’wa.

The development comes almost a month after the committee agreed on four other issues except the cost of living.

This prompted the invitation of economic experts to arrive at a workable solution to the high cost of living that continues to choke Kenyans.

Last week, economic experts blamed unnecessary government expenditure, exaggerated budgeting and integrity issues on the Kenyan economic crisis that has seen a rise in inflation, increased taxes and skyrocketing cost of living.

The Controller of Budget, Margaret Nyakang'o, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) CEO, Kwame Owino, among others, said that some of the solutions to the country’s economic perils can be dealt with by addressing government spending and Parliament diligently scrutinising the budgeting process before approval.

“If Parliament did its work diligently and went line by line on the budget and asking, why are we buying this quantity of things, you would find a lot of space for savings,” said Kwame.

Dr Nyakang'o expressed unease with the National Treasury's inability to provide a clear account of the projects to which loans were allocated.

"I have been approving payments for public debt, and I have seen many of those things cannot be identified. You cannot tell what the money was meant for, and therefore there was no economic gain from that borrowing. That is what we have been doing for a long time," she said.

The experts also called on a review of the tax regime which has seen taxes rise in the past year.

Appearing before the committee on Monday Dr Abraham Rugo contended that the government should continue cutting down on spending and taxation arguing that a lot can be saved by having a comprehensive review of state-owned enterprises which gobble up resources and offer no returns.

Dr Rugo's proposals included merging and selling some state-owned enterprises, emphasising that they should operate on business models, turning a profit or facing closure. 

“We can’t continue to save companies that are not performing yet doing businesses,” he said.

Appearing before the committee on Monday, the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u denied allegations of exaggerating the budget.

CS Ndung'u argued that the only way to resuscitate the economy and deal with the rising cost of living would be to nurture the markets and have strategic interventions to support the manufacturing and housing sectors.

“The Hustler Fund, Government to Government deal (G to G), affordable housing is an intervention. The whole issue is you start it off and once it is working, you release it to the market. For it to work, the market has to be nurtured,” said the CS.

“If markets don’t function, production will fail downstream. You cannot produce if the market is not going to give you the returns. There’s no way you will find people producing food when they cannot sell the food,” he added.

The committee is tasked with facilitating dialogue on critical national issues around the cost of living, audit of the 2022 General Elections, and the fidelity of political parties.

The team that was also looking at proposals of entrenching the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary and creating the office of the official leader of opposition among others has not only addressed the predetermined agenda items but has also taken into consideration additional matters raised by Kenyans during the deliberations.

Ichung'wa revealed that the committee had successfully agreed on the framework of the forthcoming report, marking a crucial step towards delivering a document that captures the essence of the deliberations.

"We have agreed on the framework of the report that we shall be doing and adopted the draft framework of the report. We shall be now retreating for the adoption of the final report," he said.