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Treasury ditches Eurobond for IMF and World Bank loans

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Kenya has retreated from plans to borrow money from the international markets through issuance of a sovereign bond, citing the current high cost of borrowing.

The government had planned to raise money through a Eurobond issue, which would have been the fourth in eight years, to help pay off part of its debt obligations.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u said the country would instead borrow from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Treasury had in April this year started searching for an international firm that would advise the government on such issues as the appropriate timing, the amount and tenor for the issuance of the international bond.

Prof Ndung'u Wednesday said factors such as high-interest rates have made floating a sovereign bond untenable.

“We have to change the policy paradigm through policy change and policy intervention. We are going to rely on the bilaterals - that is the IMF, World Bank, AfDB (African Development Bank) – to help us on this,” he said in an interview with Standard Group’s Spice FM.

“You have seen how the president has gone round so many countries, friendly countries (which are) willing and asking how they can package resources for us to ride over the liquidity crisis.” 

“The final line of support that we are looking at is our regional development finance institutions (DFIs) because they are capable of syndicating loans at commercial but more concessional funding.

"That way, we can ride over the short term with a structure for the long term.”

This change in plans comes even as the government prepares to pay the 10-year $2 billion (Sh300 billion) that matures in June 2024.

During the interview on Wedneday, the CS said Kenya is looking to calm the markets, having become a source of concern among many investors that feared the country might default in repayment due to a weakening shilling and the large size of its foreign debt.

President William Ruto early this month said the government would in December pay Sh45 billion of the $2 billion Eurobond.

“Everyone is looking at us as a risk but we cannot default,” he said. 

“The government strategy and policy is that we can buy back portions of the Eurobond starting now so that we reduce our exposure and reduce the jitters in the market," President Ruto said.

"When you reduce the jitters, you have opportunities in the market. Why is it so complicated? We borrowed $2 billion in 2014 at 6.85 per cent for 10 years and you pay as a bullet.”

“We want to cool the market and give ourselves room so that if we wanted to refinance any of our debts through the market, it is going to give us interest rates that are commensurate.”

The $2 billion that Kenya borrowed in 2014 has been subject to some controversy.

The Office of the Auditor General in a 2019 special audit on how the funds were used said the funds could not be accounted for and that  contrary to Treasury’s claims that the funds were allocated to some ministries, there is no proof of “receipt of expenditure” of this money anywhere in government.

Another independent audit, however, said there was evidence that the money raised was eventually received into the Consolidated Fund.

Yesterday Ndung'u appeared not to have been convinced that the funds were used procedurally, saying there is need to do an audit not just of that particular Eurobond but other loans that the government has taken as well as the projects the money went to develop. 

“There was a forensic audit that was done…of course they were given a clean bill. But what was done with the money…(we should) revisit the audit.

"Personally I would say, let us go back to that audit and find out what happened,” he said.

“An audit should be done for all the debts and what they were used for. We produce magnificent projects but what about the cost? Can somebody do an audit to determine the cost of that project? The returns of that project depends on the unit cost.”

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