MPs seek freeze on new projects by key ministry

Parliamenatry Committee on Trade , Industry and Cooperatives led by chairman Kanini Kega while on a tour at Kenya Industrial Research And Development Institute facilty in Kisumu on March 15th 2019. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

MPs now want a freeze on new projects under the industrialisation ministry.

The National Assembly Departmental Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives reckons the freeze would free up funds to finance the completion of several stalled projects, most of which are over 70 per cent done.

Speaking when the six members of the committee visited the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) in Kisumu on Friday, the chairman Kanini Kega said this was the surest way of making the sector productive.

“It makes little sense to initiate new projects when those that have sunk billions of taxpayers’ money are rotting away unable to live up to their potential to drive up industrialisation,” he said.

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New projects, he warned, were bound to face the same plight.

The committee has pledged to push for the release of the Sh3.2 billion needed by the research and business incubation institute to be fully functional.

Facilities such as KIRDI, the Kieni MP said, are key launch pads for small enterprises which in turn create jobs while helping the Government to realise its industrialisation dream.

KIRDI is constructing an excellence centre in Nairobi’s South B. The facility, which will house the Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Ministry, stalled in 2013 after sinking over Sh2 billion.

The Kisumu facility has also stalled and needs Sh800 million to complete.

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“We are going to push for the funding of these projects either in the supplementary budget or in the 2019/2020 budget,” said Mr Kega.

He said Parliament would also root for increased allocation to the ministry, adding that it is an important pillar of the economy and one of the implementing agents of the State’s Big Four agenda. The sector  gets a meagre one per of the annual budget.

KIRDI Chief Executive Officer Prof David Tuigong said underfunding was to blame for the low impact the agency has had on the economy.

The institute, for example, he said, gets Sh1 billion from the Exchequer, half of which goes to recurrent expenditure.

The manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP has been shrinking steadily since independence. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics estimates that manufacturing has been contributing to a less than optimal 10 per cent per annum to GDP in the past 10 years.

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The Government estimates that manufacturing shall contribute about 15 per cent to GDP by 2022 as a Big Four legacy agenda.

Among the key projects undertaken by the ministry include a leather tanning and processing industry in Kisumu at a cost of Sh1.9 billion

Currently, the Industrialisation ministry is also constructing a leather industrial park on a 500-hectare land at Kinanie in Machakos County, hosting tanneries and value addition facilities.

So far, the ministry has given the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) the go-ahead to build the park in Athi River, 35 kilometres from Nairobi and 17km off the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway. The leather industry generates Sh10 billion annually to the Treasury and is projected to earn 10 times more by exporting more finished products to the regional and global markets.

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