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We don't have money to pay you, Ruto tells striking doctors

 President William Ruto and his wife Rachel Ruto receive spiritual blessings from AIC clergies led by Rev Samson Samoei (right), when they attended morning church service in Eldoret Uasin Gishu County yesterday. April 7, 2024. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto has urged striking health workers to go back to work, saying the government has no money to pay them. The Head of State said as a country, we must learn to live within our means.

Speaking during a service at AIC Fellowship in Eldoret on Sunday, President Ruto explained that the government spends a huge portion of the budget on salaries.

“I know we have a situation with our doctors and interns. I want to implore them that it is important for us, as a nation to agree that we must live within our means. We cannot continue to spend the money we do not have,” he said.

Ruto announced that a conference will be held between April 15 and 17 to discuss the country’s wage bill.

He noted that the government has been spending Sh1.1 trillion annually to pay salaries and wages, which amounts to 47 per cent of the country’s Sh2.2 trillion revenue collection.

“That is way above 35 per cent of what we should be spending in accordance with the law. We need a conversation so that those of us who are earning salaries must be responsible,” he said.

The President emphasised that the country should progressively reduce the wage bill so as to free more resources, create jobs for the youth, fund healthcare, education sector and development.

He said his government will reduce the budget from the current Sh4.2 trillion to Sh3.7 trillion so that the country can live within its means.

The Head of State disclosed that the government has been borrowing money to run operations and pay salaries and the trend should stop.

“The Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. We therefore should be honest with ourselves. We must tell each other the truth. The truth is that we must live within our means. We cannot continue to borrow money to pay salaries and run the country,” he said.

On intern doctors, the president insisted that the government can only afford to pay them Sh70,000 monthly.

Doctors through Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) have been agitating for Sh206,000 pay for intern doctors.

KMPDU Secretary General Davji Atellah said the quoted pay by the government had been reduced by 91 per cent.

“We want to tell our doctors that we care about them and value their services but the resources we have are only sufficient to pay intern doctors Sh70,000 monthly stipend for one year before they can be employed,” the President stated.

He promised that once the more than 1,000 intern doctors complete their one-year internship programme, the government will set aside resources to ensure they are all absorbed.

“When the Bible says that a responsible father leaves an inheritance for his children, then we as Kenyans should not leave debts to our children. I am confident that we are going to make the right decisions and I promise to always speak the truth to our nation so that we can be free from the yoke of debts and expenditures that we cannot afford,” he said.

Last week, Head of Public Service Felix Koskei admitted that the government could not raise the Sh12 billion required to pay salaries of more than 1,200 intern doctors.

Koskei assured the doctors that the government is open to negotiations stating that Sh2.4 billion had been set aside to facilitate immediate posting of 2023-24 cohort of medical interns.

At the same time, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei while speaking at St Georges Catholic Church in Uasin Gishu urged medics to return to work as negotiations continue.

“Medics took an oath to protect lives over anything else. We urge them to resume duty as their union officials and the government seek return to work formula,” said Cherargei.

Yesterday, President Ruto reiterated that the government’s move to end subsidies on various products was wise and instrumental in managing government funds.

“When we got rid of subsidies last year, many people thought it was a bad decision, but we got rid of subsidies and instead focused on funding our production and today, you can see the fruits. We have food in our country and the prices of the food stuff have come down, our dollar situation has improved including the fuel prices,” he said.

Ruto said his government has made the right decisions for the sake of the country and will continue to do so.

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