Coronavirus now threatens to slam the brakes on Uhuru legacy projects

The Covid-19 pandemic has scuttled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy projects under the Big Four agenda even before their implementation starts.

Different State agencies have been laying the ground for key projects, including piloting the Universal Health Care (UHC) in a few counties and putting up a few affordable housing units.

But proper implementation is yet to gather momentum.

And it is now turning out that this could take even longer before Kenyans can see tangible results from Uhuru’s economic blueprint.

During his second and last tenure as president, Uhuru has promised to turn the country into a manufacturing hub, increase home ownership by building half a million affordable housing units, roll out universal healthcare and make the country food secure.

This is, however, likely to remain a mirage as Treasury diverts funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic while grappling with a slowdown in the economy. This will mean reduced tax revenues that will result in fewer resources to what has been touted as the Big Four drivers and enablers.

The situation has already been witnessed in the reduction of funds in the 2020/21 financial year, which amounts to Sh127 billion, a massive drop from the Sh451 billion in the current financial year that ends on June 30.

The enablers and drivers are largely meant to make it easier for the private sector and government players to achieve the Big Four dream.

They include better infrastructure such as roads and water as well as cheaper and more reliable electricity and ease of access to licences and other regulatory approvals.

Other than the enablers getting lower budgetary allocations over the next financial year, some of the individual ministries that house the Big Four projects have also seen their budgets slashed. Some of the sectors have also been hit hard.

“The 2020-21 financial year budget is prepared against a backdrop of a contracting global economy with severe economic disruptions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the National Treasury in budget documents, where it estimates that the economy will grow by 2.5 per cent this year.

“The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the world has had a significant negative impact on the Kenyan economy in 2020. This followed the closure of borders by world economies impacting on trade, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and other related sectors.”

In the Budget Policy Statement (BPS), which guides the national and county governments in preparing their budgets, Treasury noted that it had realigned this year’s BPS to the Big Four Agenda.

The ministry said the budgets of all government ministries and agencies had been scrutinised to make sure they too are aligned to the Big Four agenda. But four months down the line, everything has changed, with Treasury effecting massive budget cuts.

Among the ministries that are directly involved in the delivery of Big Four projects, and which saw huge budget cuts, are the State Department of Housing and Urban Development whose allocation was brought down to Sh14 billion for the next financial year compared to Sh31.5 billion in the current financial year. The department is in the driving seat of the affordable housing agenda, and slashing its budget might mean slowing down on the planned half a million housing units by 2022.

Conversely, the Health ministry’s allocation was increased to Sh114 billion from Sh92.7 billion. The increased budgetary allocation will be deployed in fighting the coronavirus pandemic this year.

There is, however, some reprieve for crop development and agricultural research that has been allocated Sh40 billion up from Sh22 billion.

It is among the few areas whose allocations went up.

President Kenyatta said last week the pandemic will not get in the way of his promises to Kenya and that he is keen on delivering his Big Four agenda.  

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