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Kimunya blames debt crisis on fancy projects

By Allan Mungai | January 8th 2021

Majority Leader Amos Kimunya addresses a past press conference in Karen Nairobi. [File, David Njaaga, Standard]

A senior member of the Jubilee Party has blamed Kenya’s current debt burden on what he calls Jubilee administration’s populist projects started between 2013 and 2017.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said the projects are undertaken by the government in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term, and which were financed by debt, are costing the country.

Between 2013 and 2017, he said, the commitments made to electrify the country or extend railway lines did not factor in the cost.

“There were a lot of populist issues that were brought in that are costing us and have increased the country’s debt burden,” he said on Tuesday night on Citizen TV.

Project costs

Pointing out the expansion of Standard Gauge Railway to Naivasha, and the Last Mile Connectivity Programme, which was aimed at expanding electricity connections, Kimunya said the costs of the projects were not considered and the country would have done without them.

A cargo train crosses a bridge in Nakuru on the Naivasha-Nakuru-Malaba Meter Gauge Railway on August 3, 2020. [File, Standard]

“There isn’t any economic activity to guarantee a return on investment on the railway in the foreseeable future,” Kimunya said, adding that the Sh160 billion used to build the SGR could have been spent on other “meaningful” projects.

The Kipipiri MP, who served as Finance minister between 2006 and 2008, was elected back to Parliament in 2017 after losing in 2013. He said he would have advised against the projects if he were in office.

The government has proposed to raise the debt-ceiling from Sh9 trillion to Sh12 trillion, a move Kimunya said he would support on condition that the money is used to revamp the economy.

“There should be rationale for what we are raising the money for. For instance, if Kenya needs another Sh1 trillion to revamp the economy, I would support it,” he said, insisting he would not back a debt ceiling increase if the money would be used for recurrent expenditures.

He said Kenya’s increasing debt was being used as political capital by supporters of Deputy President William Ruto’s expected 2022 presidential bid.

He said Ruto, who he admitted to not engaging with in the past six months, had created the wrong impression of the economic downturn in the country.

“You (DP’s supporters) are not explaining to them (youth) that the reason we have big debt is that we have all these roads,” Kimunya said, pointing out government’s investments in infrastructure.

Skewed politics

He said the politics had been skewed to look like the “big people” were comfortable while the people at the bottom were marginalised.

Kimunya shares the distaste MPs allied to the Kieleweke faction of Jubilee have for DP Ruto’s "hustler movement" through which he gives business tools and equipment to the youth.

He said creating the idea that only the economically disenfranchised youth were important was detrimental to the economy because it would entrench the idea that the prosperity of others meant that hustlers were suffering.

Kimunya made the television appearance to talk about a letter written by Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kangata to President Kenyatta, expressing reservations about the popularity of Building Bridges Initiative in Mt Kenya region.

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