It is evident that the government is relying heavily on Kenyans to shoulder the burden of a Sh3.6 trillion budget, which represents a 7 per cent increase from the previous year. To address the budget deficit, the president aims to reduce borrowing and bridge the gap gradually.
However, amidst these discussions, there is the issue of the 2013 Eurobond, which is due in June 2023, requiring Kenyans to pay Sh264 billion. Despite the initial expectations that the Eurobond would transform the economy, Kenya finds itself in a tighter spot than before.
The Finance Bill 2023, introduced to alleviate the debt burden, has sparked controversy. Economists are divided on its effectiveness while some citizens support it to resolve the debt crisis. However, the bill alone cannot guarantee Kenya’s economic recovery and self-reliance. Additional measures need to be implemented to generate revenue and reduce loan dependency.
One such avenue is the Kenyan diaspora. The president recognises the potential of the diaspora in contributing to economic development. Establishment of the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs and the State Department for Diaspora Affairs demonstrates the government’s acknowledgement of the diaspora’s contribution and its determination to harness it. Remittances from the diaspora have overtaken traditional exports like tea, coffee, and horticulture, making it the top foreign exchange earner.
To fully capitalise on the diaspora’s potential, the government should incentivise and support them. Establishing a one-stop shop for the diaspora, similar to Ethiopia’s Diaspora Agency, would provide a platform for the diaspora to engage and address their challenges.
Kenyan embassies abroad should also create dedicated desks to handle the specific needs of the diaspora workers. Additionally, training institutions should adapt their curriculum to meet the demands of the foreign job markets, including language skills and job-specific training.
The government should vet and support recruiting agencies to effectively prepare and assist workers before, during, and after their employment abroad. It is also crucial to portray a positive image of countries where Kenyan workers are employed while addressing human rights violations bilaterally without jeopardising job opportunities.
The Foreign ministry should exercise caution in managing foreign affairs and immigration while avoiding misleading announcements regarding job opportunities abroad.
Incentives should be provided to encourage the diaspora to remit and invest in Kenya. Ethiopia’s example of tax exemptions for investments upon return and customs duties exemptions for diaspora imports could be adopted.
Lastly, the government should consider establishing a diaspora and experts affairs directorate within the suggested agency. This directorate could introduce a system of cards to differentiate between continuing and returnee diaspora, facilitating the management of remittances, investment incentives, diaspora bonds, and accounts.
By harnessing the potential of the diaspora, Kenya can significantly boost its economic development and reduce dependency on loans.
Mr Lotee is the MP for Kacheliba Constituency