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Road sector is hamstrung by low budgets

Opinion

 

 Motorists stuck in a traffic sanal-up in in a section of the road between Duka Moja trading center and Suswa Girls High School that was blocked by heavy mud and debris from Mt Suswa. [George Sayagie, Standard]

The critical part that roads play in driving our socio-economic agenda cannot be naysaid. Roads are the sinew that connects children to schools, patients to hospitals, farmers to markets, workers to businesses, and the populace to essential services.

Presently, however, the mobility of most Kenyans has been disrupted by washed-away roads and bridges caused by ravaging floods that swept the country during the March-April-May heavy rains.

According to a report by Kenya Red Cross, the floods experienced in 43 counties left in their wake deaths and destruction. Records show 284 people lost their lives, 167 missing, 52,678 households displaced and 67 roads destroyed.

The gravity of the matter is aptly captured in budgetary submissions made by Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning on Tuesday.

In his submissions, he stated that it will cost the government Sh37.3 billion to restore roads and bridges destroyed by the floods, with the costs projected to go up upon completion of assessments on washed away railway lines.

This, CS Murkomen said, does not factor in the amount the Ministry needs to sort out pending bills for stalled roads, which currently stand at Sh150 billion, to allow resumption of construction works.

To enable proper maintenance of abandoned roads (termed orphaned roads) across the country, the CS is proposing a slight increase of Sh7 in the Road Maintenance Levy Fund (RMLF), moving it from current Sh18 per litre to Sh25 per litre.

This proposal has rattled some quarters, majorly due to misconceptions and misreporting on the trickle down benefits thereof. The CS argues that even with an increase in the price of fuel (from Sh95 to 194 as of May 2024), the price of RMLF has remained the same (Sh18 per litre).

It is important to note that from 2016, the fuel levy has remained constant at Sh18 per litre yet the kilometres of roads to be maintained have increased from 15,600 to 25,411.

This, therefore, means the same amount used to maintain 15,600km of roads is supposed to maintain 25,411kms.

Comparatively, this is like saying a two-lane road that used to serve 2,000 vehicles in 2001, can still withstand the traffic of 5,000 vehicles in 2024.

The expression of discontent by some quarters over this proposal, therefore, merely reminds me of what Joe Klaas wrote in his book Twelve Steps To Happiness, that “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

This proposal is the way to go to save a road sector hamstrung by budgetary constraints.

The writer is an expert in policy and advocacy

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