Not a Kibaki student, Ruto to continue with 2023 ruling style

When newly-elected president Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) and his deputy Wiliam Ruto paid a courtesy call to Kenya's third president Mwai Kibaki (left) at the latter's Nyari office in Nairobi in 2014. [File, Standard]

President William Ruto has repeatedly compared his policies to those of Mwai Kibaki and some pundits have gone further to claim he has done better in some aspects.

A World Bank report recently pointed out that late Kibaki was Kenya’s best president after his economic policies did the most to cut poverty rates, especially among rural households between 2005 and 2015.

The same cannot be said of the current administration that is fighting to control runaway inflation and the continued depreciation of the shilling to the dollar. The Ruto administration is also grappling with the high cost of living that has hit ordinary Kenyans hard.

Pundits argue that this year, Ruto will most definitely continue propagating the same policies he advanced last year by pushing for more taxation and engaging in verbal exchanges with other arms of government such as has been the case with the Judiciary.

“He will continue with the same approach as his mentor Daniel Moi and may not change in terms of listening to advice from technocrats and members of his Cabinet because, like he said last year, he knows more than what some in his Cabinet know about their dockets,” says analyst Martin Andati.

Ruto’s personality

He says the nature of Ruto’s personality does not allow him to change the way he does things because it appears that Ruto hardly takes advice. Once he has made up his mind, whatever others say becomes irrelevant.

Andati gave an example of the casual way the government assigned duties to AG Justin Muturi. The AG is a seasoned lawyer, has been a speaker and also served as a magistrate for a long time, which gave him some serious exposure.

“Having navigated parliament and handled many bills, he would have been a very good AG because he knows the relationship between Executive, Judiciary and legislature, but they have sidelined him, hardly taking his advice from him,” says Andati.

He adds: “The Kenya Kwanza leadership is likely to keep losing in the courts and getting annoyed about it.”

Andati describes Ruto as a Moi student with the only difference being that the former president was a good listener, unlike Ruto whose decisions will continue to cost him heavily because he will keep on losing cases through mistakes and getting angry.

“Unfortunately the Constitution has many safeguards so it will not allow him to go back to the Moi route. Every time he tries, people will go to court and he will be reminded we have a law which he cannot ignore,” said Andati.

Lawyer Danstan Omari is among those who have praised Ruto for his tax collection ability. “He looked for money in very virgin areas and is raising revenue in every sector. Therefore, he has more money than Kibaki, Uhuru and Moi,” said Omari.

Positive attributes

However, that is where the positive attributes end as the lawyer thinks the biggest challenge facing Ruto’s government is how the huge amounts of revenue raised is spent.

“Kibaki did well to seal all loopholes that could lead to theft of public funds. However, President Ruto has not done that and that is why the country is facing a myriad of challenges such as the high cost of living,” says Omari.

Like the President, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua has also continued to ask for more time to rebuild the economy and return it to where President Kibaki’s left it “because we inherited a dilapidated economy from Uhuru Kenyatta”.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

“I want to give you hope because last night the President and I sat with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) people for seven hours and agreed on how we will collect about Sh3 trillion by the end of the year to improve the lives of Kenyans,” said Gachagua last year.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga however says they found an almost bankrupt Treasury when they came into the government in 2003 with Kibaki.

And upon taking office, they did not blame their predecessor Daniel Moi. Instead, they decided to move on, taking measures to better the economy.

“These people are talking about debt, and that they need money to pay those debts. Increasing tax is not the only way to raise revenue, you can raise revenue without increasing taxes and this is what we did,” says Raila

Lawyer Omari also cautioned that due to the imprudent use of public funds by the Kenya Kwanza government, the problems that Kenyans are currently facing, among them the high cost of living, cannot be addressed.

“The only problem is the usage of this money. Kibaki raised revenue and completely sealed the leakages. No coin could be stolen under the watch of Kibaki,” Omari said in a TV interview.

Last month, former Law Society of Kenya chairman Ahmednssir Abdullahi Abdullahi also told President Ruto that the unpopularity of his regime was being felt by everyone and the cause was not just about the high cost of living. 

He advised Ruto not to wait any longer to reconnect with Kenyans by going back to his manifesto to prioritize the pledges he made to the people during his campaigns.

Speaking in Meru last year, Ruto said that Kibaki raised tax collection revenue from Sh200 billion to about one trillion by the time he left office in 2013. He claimed that confusion allegedly created by Raila’s handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta shifted focus from tax collection to borrowing which created a debt deficit of five trillion shillings.

“I ask you the people of Meru; do we continue borrowing or do we collect tax and avoid sliding our country into mud? Let us pay tax and develop our country,” said Ruto.

Since last week, while on his Mt Kenya tour, the President again praised Kibaki’s policies and promised to ignore noise from detractors out to derail him.

Nominated MP John Mbadi, who has served as the ODM chairman, disagrees with Ruto’s argument that his administration is determined to reduce debt.

Instead, he has tabled figures showing it has borrowed close to one trillion shillings since taking office, almost doubling what Uhuru’s government borrowed in a similar period. In June, Mbadi said figures at the time indicated the Ruto government engaged in heavy borrowing soon after taking power.

“When Ruto came into power, Kenya’s debt stock was Sh8.7 trillion, as of September 30, 2022. It stood at Sh9.39 trillion on March 31, 2023, a difference of Sh689 billion. When Uhuru was in power, the debt stock as of September 2021 was Sh7.99 trillion, and as of March 31, the stock was Sh8.4trillion, with a difference of Sh405 billion. Who is borrowing more?” Mbadi said in June.

President William Ruto. [File, Standard]

So how does the Kibaki administration compare to Ruto’s in their first year? Prof Gitile Naituli, an expert in leadership and management, says in the first year, President Kibaki had controlled government expenditure by more than 60 per cent but there is no indication that spending has reduced after Ruto assumed power.

“By appointing over 50 CASs and engaging in many foreign trips with some ministers changing clothes at airports to jump onto another flight as reported by DP Gachagua, it can only get worse,” says Naituli.

He recounts that Kibaki managed expenditure by removing all education budgets from ministries and mandating the Treasury to manage the funding of all education programmes such as FPE, directly.

Kibaki then cancelled all foreign trips and demanded that he be informed if there was any urgent need for his personal approval for Kenyans to get value for their money.

The next action he took was to withdraw big cars that were guzzling fuel and ordered then Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to allocate each minister two less than 2000cc cars and one to each PS.

Personal use

“He insisted that the cars could be used from home to office and not for personal use because they were earning a salary and could afford a personal car,” says Naituli.

And so within one year Kibaki, had removed the country from the IMF’s borrowing list after creating a surplus in the country’s coffers.

He declared that FPE be fully funded by the government and yet he found the country’s economy in a poorer situation than the current administration did.

Andati also thinks the fact that Kibaki avoided engaging in confrontational politics helped him because he was never seen addressing rallies from car rooftops in his first year.

“Does the appointment of people in public service, both in the Executive and other positions and especially in parastatals, reflect the face of Kenya?” said Andati.

He praises Ruto for his fertilizer subsidy programme which is expected to increase food production. However, he notes that it was Kibaki who started the programme when Ruto was serving in his government.

By AFP 2 hrs ago
Man City win historic fourth straight Premier League title
All hail K'Ogalo! Gor Mahia win record 21st Premier League title
Kenya Sevens to play Germany in Challenger Series quarters
By AFP 14 hrs ago
'We had a great time': Klopp ready to wave goodbye to Anfield crowd