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Can politics be delinked from progress?

OPINION
By Ndungu Gethenji | May 4th 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta is faced with the daunting task of consolidating the national governmental needs and to provide resources and funding to the 47 newly created counties. Mr Kenyatta’s Government has Sh1.4 trillion to disburse and utilise effectively in no less than 12 months before the next elections.

The big question is; how should he spend this huge yet still-not-enough sum of money?
No doubt the president will achieve much by not embarking on new extensive projects this year and choosing to complete outstanding projects carried over from past administrations.

It is certainly no small feat to keep the promises of your predecessors, especially considering the magnitude of the projects they envisioned.

The considered commitment to staying the course is commendable. Too often we have been subjected to various political promises, the beginning and launching of projects that somehow turn into white elephants, non-starters and ruins, ghosts of our checkered past. Of course, there is the concern of a recurring government expenditure of close to Sh1 trillion.

This is certainly quite high considering the demands of the new constitutional dispensation.

However, the national government is working closely with the various county governments to streamline this expenditure and find out where costs can be reduced.

Ultimately we must find a way to reduce the cost to tax payers as we enhance services. Indeed as stated in a brief from State House, “expenditures will be scrutinized carefully to ensure quality and alignment to the government economic agenda”.

The advantage of the current situation where government completes outstanding projects is that it will assist us in determining if the budget expenditure is justified.

This will also ensure we wean each level of government from excesses in line with the challenges ahead as we consolidate our position as a middle-income country, as well as prevent further wastage.

The President’s decision to complete all existing projects before moving to new ones is therefore one that will ensure we consolidate development such that we do not have ‘hanging’ projects. It also ensures consistent growth.

In addition, as a country that wishes to sustain our status as a regional economic powerhouse the sort of budget that we have at our disposal must sustain gradual development rather than fund short-term programmes.

The benefits accruing from projects such as the SGR and the Northern Corridor will dramatically change the future of communities across the country but especially in what were previously marginalized regions.

Whereas poverty reduction might not be quantified, the impact of populations not previously able to invest effectively into the national economy doing so for the first time will certainly lead to increased revenues that can be used to fund future projects. However, the greatest direct impact I personally envision from this budget will be in the health sector, which is expected to receive at least Sh60.8 billion.

This kind of expenditure will make quite a difference in areas such as cancer management especially now that it has overtaken HIV and Aids as one of Kenya’s greater public health concerns.

Such support ensures that Kenyans can continue to benefit from the rapid expansion seen through healthcare partnerships between the national and county governments.

Of course the challenge here is that the president risks losing political capital as competitors who were in past administrations try to lay claim to completed projects.

This is to be expected. However, it only goes to show that President Kenyatta understands that it takes more than a presidential term, or one administration, to move a country forward.

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