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Uhuru Kenyatta defends high borrowing record to fund mega projects

President Uhuru Kenyatta and regional counterparts cut a ribbon to officially open the 42.4-kilometre East African Arusha Bypass road in Arusha town, Tanzania.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has defended his administration’s heavy borrowing to develop mega infrastructure projects.

President Kenyatta yesterday told the  East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit in Arusha, Tanzania that roads and other big-ticket projects would benefit the country immensely once proper utilisation starts.

He told his regional counterparts that infrastructure is key for the region to deepen integration and develop its own industries and markets for its goods.

“East Africa cannot be if we are not able to communicate with each other… it cannot be if we are not able to move from one side to another if our goods are not able to be ferried from one part to the other, and this is why infrastructure is critical to us achieving our common objective of being a common market,” said the President.

President Kenyatta had earlier joined the presidents of Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Somalia at the official opening of the 42.4-kilometre East African Arusha by-pass road in Arusha town.

The road, which connects Arusha to Namanga Road, is expected to reduce the time taken to move goods into Kenya and Tanzania.

President Kenyatta said his administration had heavily invested in roads as well as telecommunication infrastructure linking Kenya to its neighbours to deepen integration and create jobs for East Africans.

“All of these are aimed at helping us come together. They reduce costs and help people come together. We must work towards a common market... we must have that infrastructure that links us.”

He challenged his counterparts to follow suit and develop infrastructure, saying it is a sure way to interlink the region and, in turn, develop local industries.

His remarks come amid growing criticism over his government’s penchant for huge loans for infrastructure development. But the president told off his detractors, saying they are hell-bent on holding the region back.

“We must move away from those who will tell my colleagues (presidents from EAC) that you are spending too much money (on infrastructure)… then go ahead to write (articles on international media) that we are taking loans from China. Yes, we are taking these loans… so that we can build (roads). They say that because they know the moment we are linked and able to tap our resources, we will no longer be dependent,” he said.

Uhuru underscored the importance of infrastructure, noting that it would be enable regional economies to take advantage of the different strengths of each country.

He also noted that transport and telecommunication infrastructure offer East African firms and individuals a huge market for their products and services.

“So long as we are not interlinked, we remain markets not producers… so long as we remain markets, all we are doing is producing raw materials, it is shipped out and shipped back to us (as finished products),” he said.

“If we are all interlinked and we have this market, we would take our own raw materials, produce for ourselves, distribute among ourselves and access international markets.”

Kenya has been the chair of EAC, with yesterday’s Summit being the last Uhuru chaired. He handed over to Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

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