Ruto flings open Kenya's doors to the world with free visa gamble

President William Ruto with Ethiopian president Sahle-Work Zewde and Zanzibar President Dr Hussein Mwinyi during Jamhuri Day Celebrations 2023 at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on December 12, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

President William Ruto has announced that Kenya will be a visa-free country beginning next month as he assured the country that the painful experience of the government over-taxation was paying off given that the country was out of debt distress. 

Ruto’s free visa gamble is a culmination of months of offering free entry to a number of nationals across the continent. 

During the Mashujaa Day celebrations, the president had said that the government was considering opening up the country to the rest of the world, noting that Kenya was the cradle of mankind. 

“It shall no longer be necessary for any person from any corner of the globe to carry the burden of applying for a visa to come to Kenya,” said the Head of State on Tuesday. 

Ruto made the remarks at the Uhuru Gardens when he led the nation in marking 60 years since Kenya became a republic. Speaking on increased taxation that has pushed the cost of living up, Ruto said the policy measures required to mobilise necessary revenues have been difficult but were the only way out of the economic mess.  

“I can now confirm that Kenya is safely out of the danger of debt distress and that our economy is on a stable footing,” said Ruto. 

The president told Kenyans that the price they had paid together and the sacrifices made had rescued the country from an economic catastrophe. 

“After navigating our way out of a difficult and complicated debt situation, our second action is to accelerate economic progress, which is the cardinal assignment of our generation,” said Ruto. 

The Head of State reminded Kenyans that his Kenya Kwanza administration has made a contribution to the struggle for the nation’s economic sovereignty, including cutting back on expenditure and deferring the implementation of critical development programmes to stabilise the economy. 

He expressed optimism that economic indicators point to a bright future given that inflation was now at 6.8 per cent, down from a high of 9.2 per cent last year and in the last six months, the GDP has grown at 5.4 per cent.  

Ruto told Kenyans that there was every reason to believe that without serious sacrifices and hard work over the past year, the crises, threats and challenges in the global economic and geopolitical environment confronting Kenya would have been overwhelming.  

The president noted that in the 60 years of independence, Kenya had become a mature democracy where institutions of governance have evolved significantly and Parliament was now more than ever an independent, assertive organ of government with its calendar and budget. 

“Proposals currently before Parliament on the enhancement of the autonomy of county assemblies prove that our assemblies are also making encouraging progress in their maturation into independent watchdogs, policymakers, and representatives of the people in our counties,” said Ruto. 

He said devolution was growing its roots deeper to connect with the soul and spirit of our nation, noting that the political culture has also evolved considerably and the country was now committed to making sure that at every election, the democratic competition was less about personalities and tribes, and more about issues and national interest. 

“As a result, the last General Election, which serves as a very solid beacon of this new direction, reflected the true will and confidence of the people of Kenya in democracy,” said the Head of State. 

He acknowledged that the Judiciary, which was the nation’s foremost anchor of the rule of law, continued to grow in its capacity to authoritatively discharge its constitutional mandate and make justice a right of every citizen. 

Ruto said recognising that the human capital was probably the single most potent arsenal the country had to drive economic progress, the country had increased the total allocation to education sector by an additional Sh127 billion. 

On agriculture, Ruto said that 400 fresh produce markets, 47 county aggregation and industrial parks, as well as six special economic zones, are at various stages of implementation to enhance value addition, agro-processing and manufacturing to stimulate economic growth. 

To improve health provision, the Head of State said the universal health coverage under the Social Health Authority Fund was a paradigm shift in the provision of healthcare, from curative to a largely preventive and promotive approach. 

The president reiterated that the housing programme was fundamentally a massive, deliberate and systematic job creation mechanism and apart from the thousands of direct employment opportunities in construction and associated services, the housing scheme indirectly supports the formal and informal manufacturing of materials, fixtures, fittings and accessories required in the construction. 

He noted that the country’s strategic focus was to construct thousands of housing units while creating millions of jobs. 

On the ICT sector, the Head of State said he had signed into law amendments to the National Government Constituency Development Fund Act, which set out a framework to anchor the development of ICT hubs in 1,450 wards in the country.

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By AFP 3 hrs ago
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