How to guarantee loan debt payments

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trip to China, last week, to negotiate a Sh368 billion loan is an indication that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line may be extended to Kisumu and to Malaba and Kampala, later.

This is good news to landowners on the railway line, who can expect to reap billions in compensation for their land and property for those who have buildings on it.

The loans borrowed to build the SGR have, however, attracted criticism from those who argue that the country is getting dangerously exposed to foreign debt that may be difficult to repay.

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Acceptable limits

It is unfortunate that the State has not risen to the occasion and answered these critics beyond repeating the worn out cliché that the country’s debt is within internationally acceptable limits.

Perhaps, State House may be persuaded to lead the rest of the government in implementing three key strategies that would vindicate its contention that the country will pay its local and foreign debts as they fall due. First, streamline SGR operations with those of Kenya Ports Authority and all the agencies inspecting cargo at the point of entry and departure including Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards.

The number of State agencies involved in cargo handling should, as a matter of urgency, be reduced and their personnel thoroughly vetted regularly.

This is to reduce public officials tendency of building fiefdoms that use the authority as tools to extort money from exporters, and importers. Two, increase exports by getting actively involved in scouting out export opportunities for Kenyan produce, both from the factories and farms.

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This would require the evaluation of agencies and individuals employed in exports promotion on the value and volume of goods they have helped export. The era of sitting behind huge and attractive desks and holding meetings and workshops about increasing the country’s exports should be a thing of the past. All the newly industrialised countries have followed this route.

Third, speed up the setting up of factories at the proposed Naivasha and Athi River export processing zones.

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ChinaSh368 billionSGRStandard Gauge RailwayPresident Uhuru Kenyatta