Five key issues top seat rivals are banking on to sway voters

Deputy President William Ruto when he met ODM's Raila Odinga during IEBC's stakeholder briefing. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Five key issues is defining campaigns of presidential candidates as the race to the General Election enters homestretch.

The four presidential candidates, Raila Odinga (Azimio la Umoja One Kenya), Deputy President William Ruto (UDA), George Wajackoyah (Roots Party), and David Mwaure (Agano Party) have prioritised health, education, agriculture, women, and youth empowerment in their manifestos.

The candidates are banking on the five key issues to sway the votes in their favour.

In the health sector, Raila promises to ensure the production of drugs and medical equipment locally, availability of basic drugs in health centres, and that all Kenyans get free suitable primary healthcare services.

The Azimio presidential candidate has pledged to ensure that retired civil servants get medical cover paid for by the government, elimination of malaria in the country by 2030 and establishment of emergency medical fund.

On the other hand, Dr Ruto promises to increase annual budgetary allocation to the health sector from four per cent to 15 per cent, ensure fully financed primary healthcare, launch electronic health records, employ 20,000 healthcare workers and set up new level six hospitals in six counties.

The DP intends to set up a national fund for chronic and catastrophic illness and injury costs not insured, ensure mandatory National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover, and national government to contribute to the stipends paid to community health workers by county governments on a matching basis.

Speaking at KTN News Kivumbi town hall meeting in Nairobi on Thursday last week, Ruto said he will end the monopoly of Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

Agano presidential candidate promises to ensure each registered family has at least one person who is employed and roll out the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) programme based on disease and demography.

Mr Mwaure pledges to prioritise the fight against cancer, free medical services for accident victims, all forms of medical/non-elective surgery and old persons above 70 years and waive medical bills for any person who dies in a government hospital.

On education, Raila intends to have one nutritionally balanced meal per child in ECDE and lower primary, a national fund for equitable access to bursaries, free education from ECDE to university, and review Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) and Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) listing for graduates.

He promises to build schools where there are none and launch a research and design fund for students who develop innovative solutions.

Ruto, On the other hand, intends to review the current exam-based system of academic progression and introduce alternative entry criteria, double the amount of money set aside for the school feeding programme, pay for in-service teacher training, and bridge the teachers’ shortage gap within two years.

The DP promises to merge the Helb, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and University Funding Board under a National Skill and Funding Council, set up a national open university, and implement a 100 per cent transition to higher education for all students across the country.

On Agriculture Raila intends to have a legally supported livestock insurance scheme, raise the sector's contribution to the GDP from 22.4 per cent to at least 30 per cent, have each constituency with blue economic activities, get a cold storage facility, implement a minimum return guarantee to farmers and have modern boats and fishing gear and preservation for all fishing communities.

Ruto has promised investments worth Sh50 billion for the agriculture sector annually, Sh8.8 billion in working capital for dairy farmers, raise the productivity of key-value food chains, cut basic fund imports by 30 per cent and transform two million farmers from food-deficit to surplus producers.

Prof Wajackoyah pledges to legalise marijuana farming for export and use the proceeds to pay off national debts to China.

He says if Nyeri County grows bhang in one year and exports it, Kenya’s entire debt portfolio would be cleared and the money would also fund the construction of two expressways in each county.

The Roots Party presidential candidate also promises to introduce snake farming for venom extraction for sale to pharmaceutical firms and sale of skins to leather industries to offset the public debt.

Wajackoyah says one test tube of snake venom costs Sh600,000 and the funds can be used to fund the education budget.

He further promises to introduce the export of dog meat to China and other countries to help settle the public debt.

On women empowerment, Raila promises to enforce the two-thirds gender rule in elective or appointive positions, establish incubation centres for businesses targeting women in rural areas, and ensure each public school with girls is provided with sanitary pads and promote the local manufacture of sanitary pads.

Ruto, on his part, promises women 50 per cent of Cabinet positions, to ensure two-thirds gender rule in elective and appointive positions in the public sector, 100 per cent enforcement of the spousal consent legal provision in land transactions and provide a safety net for distressed diaspora citizens.

Raila promises to create a ministry of youth affairs to handle matters affecting the youth, offer a seven-year tax holiday on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and waive regulatory and other licensing fees for new youth-led manufacturing firms.

The Azimio presidential candidate pledges to certify all artisans, craftsmen, and technicians under-recognition of the Prior Learning Programme and start short courses for the youth under ‘Ujuzi Teke Teke’ programme to equip them with skills.

Ruto promises to set up a Sh50 billion fund to provide MSMEs with affordable financing and reduce call and data costs to allow the youth to use online platforms for entertainment, information and business.

The DP further pledges to promote youth-owned and operated enterprises.

Mwaure, on the other hand, promises to implement the two-thirds gender rule in all appointive positions, increase government procurement opportunities (AGPO) reservation limit from the current 30 per cent to 50 per cent for youth and women and do away with the requirement of AGPO certificates as well as tax compliance certificates for government tender application.