National Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani’s maiden budget was a disappointment to Kenyans who believed the country’s leadership is committed to boosting agricultural and industrial growth.
Despite the grandiose picture the CS attempted to paint of a rejuvenated agricultural and industrial sectors, the amount of money allocated to them was well below expectations.
But, perhaps even more disturbing, the way that money was earmarked demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of what the sector needs to make them play their catalytic role in the economy.
Allocating Sh3 billion to subsidise inputs meant for small-scale farmers without addressing the challenges that have ensured the seeds and fertilisers do not reach the farmers but end up with in the shops of unscrupulous traders who charge a premium for them, is a case in point.
The allocation of Sh3.5 billion to expand irrigation at community and household level without addressing the issues raised in many counties where the few dams dug have been abandoned unfinished and have turned into death traps for children is yet another demonstration of Yatani’s flawed development model.
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The budget’s neglect of agriculture, however, pales in comparison to manufacturing despite the two pillars being touted as part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.
Analysts had expected that the budget would address the real problems facing the industrial sector, which revolve around lack of investments in new industries and the expansion of existing ones coupled with moving the entire sector up the technological ladder.
Close the gap
This would help close the huge gap revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak when it became clear the country had to import simple consumer products such as masks and personal protective equipment.
The scramble for pharmaceutical products to combat the outbreak also revealed just how deeply reliant the country has become to imports from India and China.
The dangers Kenya faces from this over-reliance was graphically spelt out when these countries passed legislation to restrict their exports.
Yet, instead of Yatani setting aside funds to establish industries to produce goods that could be easily made locally using local materials, he allocated only Sh18.3 billion to manufacturing, the bulk of which will be used to build industrial parks.
It appears that government officials still does not understand that the building of industrial parks and special economic zones is not a substitute to establishing industries because the world is awash with similar facilities competing for a limited number of direct foreign investors.
[Mbatau wa Ngai; [email protected]]