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Budget funding proposals receive praise and scorn

Business
 MPs leave Parliament after Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung'u read the Budget Highlights on June 13, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Mixed reactions from Kenyans have greeted the country’s budget proposals for the 2024/2025 Financial Year that was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday.

While some praised some of the proposals, others claimed the slashing of funding to key sectors like health is a disaster in waiting.

In the North Rift, residents decried the reduced funding for the school feeding programme and claimed it will hurt education.

George Wanjala, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary, Trans Nzoia branch, described it as a massive blow to the education sector.

“Cutting allocation for feeding programme will severely impact pupil retention and performance, especially in marginalised areas and among children from very humble families,” Wanjala stated.

He said the school feeding programme has been a critical support system for many learners who rely on it for their daily meals, which in turn influences their attendance and academic performance.

Wanjala also criticised the allocation for Junior Secondary Schools (JSS), pointing out that the Sh30.7 billion set aside for over 20,000 schools is insufficient.

Wanjala, however, lauded the government’s commitment to free secondary education programme.

“The allocation of Sh63.9 billion for free secondary school programme is a step in the right direction,” he stated.

He said the funding will improve enrollment by ensuring access for all students to quality education.

Paul Nzamba, a farmer from Gitwamba in Saboti, voiced his displeasure over reduction in agricultural funding from Sh98 billion to Sh97 billion in the 2024/2025 national budget.

“The government should adhere to the Maputo Protocol of 2003, which mandates allocation of 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture,” said Nzamba.

In West Pokot County, residents expressed mixed views on the budget estimates. Residents wanted priority be given to sectors that will help tackle insecurity incidences in the North Rift and also employment of JSS staff.

According to Kiprop Cheruiyot, a resident, there is a palpable sense of unease due to frequent incidents of banditry and inter-community clashes.

In Western, sugarcane farmers have welcomed the government’s decision to allocate Sh1.5 billion for the maintenance of Cane Testing Units (CTUs) and payment of salary arrears for workers.

“We appreciate recognition of the sugar industry by the CS in his Budget Policy Statement by an allocation of Sh1.5 billion specifically for CTUs maintenance and payment of salary arrears for workers,” said Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Secretary General Simon Wesechere.

However, Wesechere said the allocation falls short of farmers expectations because the total workers’ arrears stand at Sh5.7 billion.

Former Shinyalu MP Silverse Anami said many Kenyans were struggling to put food on the table and the budget ought to have considered their plight.

“If you are representing people, you must listen to them. People are being taxed heavily, interest rates have gone up at the expense of investors. Hustlers are suffering the most. Our MPs must be realistic,” he said. 

Butere Anglican Church Bishop Rose Okeno said taxes on essential food items, including bread, were ill-informed. 

Equitable share

In Nyanza, a section of residents praised the decision by the National Treasury to increase allocations of Equitable Share of revenue.

They claimed the amount will be meaningful if the government releases the funds in good time.

A section of teachers, however, claimed they were unsure whether the government is committed to improving the education sector.

Shegilah Kelepo, a teacher, expressed concerns over the government’s commitment to employing JSS teachers on a permanent and pensionable basis.

“Many of us have been serving on contracts for years. We were hopeful that this budget would provide clarity on our employment status,” said Kelepo.

But teachers in Nyandarua and Laikipia counties have welcomed the move by the government to aside funds to employ JSS teachers on permanent basis.

Treasury CS announced that the government had set aside Sh13.4 billion for the same.

“We were waiting keenly for the announcement. This is great news for the teachers. We sill stop the protests,” said Nyandarua Kuppet Executive Secretary Julius Macharia.

In Nyeri, a section of residents claimed the budget presents gloom for Kenyans and will lead to the taxation of basic items.

Genesis Njiru said the government should source other revenue collection streams other than over-taxation.

Joseph Mbau, a taxi driver, said the budget is not favourable to the business and will slowly kill the small business economy. 

[Reports by James Munyeki, Irisheel Shanzu, Martin Ndiema, Clinton Ambujo, Purity Mwangi and Jackline Inyanji]

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