Let us revisit our social contract as we forge ahead, Ruto tells Kenyans

President William Ruto speaks in Turbo, Uasin Gishu County. [PCS]

President William Ruto has told Kenyans that 2023 is the year the government decided to stop wastage and extravagance, instead opting to live within our means by cutting expenditure by up to Sh400 billion to reduce the country’s borrowing.

Ruto, who was addressing Kenyans during a New Year speech at Nakuru State Lodge on Sunday, said that the government decided to enhance tax revenues by Sh600 billion to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and independence.

The President said that Kenyans have managed to navigate through major difficulties, faced significant challenges and celebrated numerous triumphs, adding that the country has lived through an eventful year and made encouraging progress across many sectors, amid daunting setbacks.

“The impact of global economic dynamics adversely affected us, compounded by the war in Europe, rising interest rates in America and the unfortunate effects of climate change that occasioned the most severe drought in 40 years. All these factors slowed down our economic performance, resulting in increased commodity prices,” said Ruto.

He said that to manage, moderate and overcome these difficulties, 2023 became the year of a complete paradigm shift in the handling of national issues and that we collectively summoned the courage to make bold, decisive, far-reaching and long-term decisions to once and for all put our country on the path to attaining its full socioeconomic potential.

The President added that the choices we have made over the last year were neither easy, populist, nor convenient, they were however meaningful, appropriate and necessary, and though in the short-term they are painful, in the long-term they will be gainful.

“We take pride in the strides we’ve made as a nation. We have triumphed over the threat of economic stagnation and are now in a secure space concerning our sovereign debt obligations. Inflation has reduced to 6.8% and our GDP is growing at the rate of 5.4%, placing Kenya as the 29th fastest-growing economy globally,” said Ruto.

The President said that in 2023,  the government decided to get rid of consumption subsidies that not only drove the country into deeper financial distress but were also unsustainable, opaque and only benefited middlemen, at the expense of those who truly deserved support.

He said they deliberately redirected focus to support production through incentives in our crops, livestock and fisheries programs and that today, with the blessing of good weather, these interventions have enabled the country to increase food production by 40 per cent, at a fraction of the previous cost.

“Working with farmers, our foremost patriots, we shall double our efforts in 2024, until we reduce our Sh500 billion food import bill to zero, and rid our country of the shame of hunger,” said Ruto.

 The President said that in 2023, the government decided that growing the economy as has been the case in the past, was not enough and, as such, it rolled out an economic growth model intentionally designed to be inclusive, deliberately expanding opportunities and creating millions of jobs.

 Ruto said that the affordable housing programme not only provides decent homeownership for millions, including slum dwellers who now live in squalor, but it also aims to reverse agricultural land fragmentation and has already created 120,000 jobs, with plans to employ an even greater number of people next year.  

“For the first time, my mama mboga and bodaboda friends will now have a chance to own a home in our Sh4,000-a-month, 3% interest tenants purchase scheme, as will other Kenyans on our 6% interest affordable housing and the 9% market housing programmes. All at single-digit interest rates, which is half the current rates,” said Ruto.

 He said that as Kenyans celebrate all the achievements made so far, several policies, programmes and other strategic interventions aimed at delivering necessary and urgent interventions of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda have been delayed, obstructed and hampered by various challenges, including persistent litigation.

Ruto said that there is nothing wrong with challenging policy and holding government to account and the national interest is best safeguarded in an environment defined by the competition of progressive ideas, where a good proposal gives way to a better one.

“We all must make sure that the best ideas always prevail in enhancing the well-being of the people and making this nation prosperous and powerful; that is what our democracy exists to achieve,” said Ruto.

The President said there is something fundamentally wrong with opposition, without any viable alternatives, whose only purpose is division, conflict, anarchy and litigation, sponsored by hostage-taking vested interests, with the sole aim to delay, derail and sabotage the delivery of public programmes and defeat public interest.

“Time and again, Kenyans have clearly and manifestly demonstrated their devotion to pursuing opportunities for progress by voting for progressive policies. Kenyans are ready to propel their nation forward to greatness. What has held them back is a leadership invested in the status quo, which excludes the majority to benefit only a few,” said Ruto.

He said that politics that is comfortable with keeping millions in want and indignity to preserve the illegitimate privileges of a few, and a resultant institutional system, in which the disenfranchisement of ordinary people is the yardstick of public policy must change.

 The President said that there is an inevitable clash of ideologies at the moment that goes beyond a mere conflict over choices which extends to a disagreement between Kenyans, as to who between the few who wield power in the executive, legislature, and judiciary, and everyone else without distinction, are the legitimate targets and beneficiaries of public policy.

“We are at a moment of reflection that calls us to revisit the first principles of our civil and political understanding, re-evaluate the terms of our social contract, and place Kenyans, the ones we sometimes call ordinary, at the centre of all national discourse. As we do this, we must appreciate one indisputable fact: freedom is our lifeblood and identity,” said Ruto.

The President said Kenya is a society defined by opportunity, founded on free enterprise and democracy, where competition and merit are underpinned by compassion, inclusivity, and a strong sense of collective interest.

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