President William Ruto used his first New Year address to the nation to defend some of the controversial economic policies of his new administration and outline his vision for the next 12 months.
In his address from State House Mombasa, Ruto hailed the decision to get rid of fuel, maize flour and electricity subsidies saying the move has set a strong foundation for the country’s economic takeoff.
The Head of State said every month the country would save Sh25 billion, which was used to subsidise the cost of the three items.
He described the subsidies introduced by Uhuru’s government to cushion Kenyans against the high cost of living as “programmes not based on science but were used for political expediency.”
“I’m confident that we have now laid a foundation that will take our economy away from dependence on debts to dependence on revenue raised through taxes,” he said in Mombasa on Saturday.
Ruto said the money saved after the removal of subsidies has been used to invest in areas that will sustainably drive the economy.
The government has eliminated, starting yesterday, the 15 per cent low-cost Kenya Power electricity subsidy, which gobbled up about Sh26 billion over a year.
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Earlier, the Kenya Kwanza regime also removed the fuel and maize flour subsidies amid fears that the decision could push the cost of living through the roof.
He expressed confidence that his policies were arrived at after a scientific study that revealed that the subsidy programmes were not sustainable.
He said his administration will focus on tackling food insecurity, water shortage, reliance on foreign borrowing and shortage of teachers.
On food security, Ruto said the focus will be on providing affordable fertilisers to farmers and expansion of irrigation-fed agriculture.
“We shall through Public Private Partnership PPP start to build 100 dams in the first phase to reduce water shortage and have water for irrigation,” he said, adding that technical training institutions will be expanded.
Giving Kenyans a vibrant education system is one of President Ruto’s major focal points this year. He said he has taken time to lay a foundation and bring revolution in the education sector.
“The single most important asset we have as a nation is our human capital, and the way to make it better is through education,” he said.
The president said the government will work with Members of Parliament to ensure one classroom and laboratory in every primary school is constructed in preparation for the Junior Secondary transition.
“The government will work with MPs so that they can be delivered in time to provide seamless movement of children across the education ladder,” he said.
The president said the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) has facilitated the construction of many schools and offered bursaries for tens of thousands of pupils and students across the country which will continue.
He said that the government intends to employ 30,000 teachers for basic education with an addition of 3,000 tutors for TVET institutions.
“We will equip seventy TVETS institutions at a cost of sh.15 billion to ensure we churn out the best engineer graduates,” said the president.
‘‘It is our intention to build a world-class human capital using our education system. This is the reason we have set out this January to hire additional teachers to ensure that our primary to Junior Secondary transition is faultless.’’
Shortage of teachers
Ruto said the government will employ part of the intended 58,000 teachers per year for Sh25 billion for the next two years to address the current shortage in the sector which stands at 116,000.
“We commit to ensuring that government-initiated in-service training, including Teacher Continuous Professional Development, is undertaken at the government’s expense,” he said.
Ruto said he has laid out plans to transform the manufacturing sector, which currently contributes seven per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.
“We have a plan to spur the manufacturing sector to make sure that it contributes 30 per cent to our GDP by 2030. Most of it will happen in Mombasa, Naivasha, and Athi River,” he said.
On climate change, he said the national government will hire 1,000 youths to team up with the same number employed by the County Government of Mombasa to plant trees in the port city.
“Climate change is a reality. Our nation has lost two million livestock and wildlife due to human error that contributed to climate change. The youths will restore the mangrove forest,” he said.
The Head of State said he was ready to work with leaders elected through the opposition party but reiterated that it was the work of the opposition to keep the government in check.
He said that all indications show that in the next year, the country’s revenue collection is expected to rise from the current Sh2 trillion to Sh 3 trillion, and doubled in the next five years.
“This will ensure that we can develop our country on sound footing using locally generated revenue rather than being trapped in debts,” said Ruto.
Ruto said the “Hustler Fund” launched in November 2022 was a success, and that so far Kenyans have borrowed Sh20 billion.
He said the government will inject more money into the fund.
“Next month we will launch the second phase of the fund. This will benefit saccos and co-operatives so that we make sure Kenyans are not exploited by shylocks,” he said.
Ruto continued with the tradition that was started by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of the Head of State celebrating the New Year at the Coast city.
The other three presidents -- Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta -- maintained the tradition.
-Reporting by Benard Sanga, Joachim Bwana, Willis Oketch and Mike Kihaki