Uhuruto’s 100 Days in Office: An Evaluation by Jared Odero Part 1
After a rigged election, how are the suspects performing?
As President Uhuru Kenyatta approaches his “First 100 days” in office, critics wonder how he will achieve some of his election promises, given the heavy debt burden and budget deficit facing Government. Further, social problems/issues are spiraling due to lack of income for majority Kenyans. Without quick solutions, Kenya is a powder keg waiting to explode. Although meeting election pledges takes a longer time, the first 100 days are used as a benchmark for how a leader is faring and charting the way forward. This piece reflects on how Uhuru’s Administration has handled some salient issues so far.
Key promises to be fulfilled within Uhuru’s first 100 days were: To abolish maternity fees, provide free access to public health centers to all Kenyans and ensure that all school pupils joining Class One in public schools next year receive laptops. He also promised that a framework would be developed to channel the Ksh6 billion ($71 million) earlier allocated for the election run-off, to a new Youth and Women Fund to be enjoyed countrywide. Maternity and user fees at dispensaries were waived from June 1, 2013. This is in line with the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 which aim at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by 2015.
However, having inherited a debt burden of Ksh1.8 trillion, Uhuru faces a bumpy ride. The first challenge he faced was the demand by MPigs to increase their new salary set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) at Ksh532 500 back to Ksh851 000 earned by the immediate former MPigs. Uhuru was against the raise and made it clear that the public sector wage bill was too high to meet their demand. Meanwhile, the Mpigs threatened to derail Government budgetary plans and to reduce salaries earned by the members of constitutional offices. After three months’ of salary standoff, Uhuru sent his deputy William Ruto, to sit with the Parliamentary Service Commission and the SRC to negotiate. The outcome was worse than before, because the MPigs will now earn approximately Ksh1.2 million per month in salaries and allowances. Although their basic salary remains Ksh532 500, the non-taxable allowances will still cost the taxpayers enormously. It was interesting that all MPigs were united in greed, regardless of being in the ruling Jubilee Alliance or the opposition, CORD.
In retrospect, retired president Kibaki’s key pledges were to provide free primary education and a new constitution within the first 100 days in 2003. Although he fulfilled the first one, Kenyans got a new constitution in 2010, during his second term. His first 100 days in 2003 were marred by skewed top Government job appointments in favor of people from his Mt. Kenya area, some of whom had long retired. Moreover, MPigs awarded themselves huge salaries during the period, not caring that after 24 years of Moi’s misrule, the country was in a huge financial crisis. In a BBC report on April 8, 2003, Kariuki wa Mureithi noted the following on Kibaki’s first 100 days: Plusses – Anti-corruption moves; Free primary education moves; Prison reforms began; Crackdown on civil service. Minuses – Huge salary hikes for Mps; New cars for Mps; War in Iraq impacts on economy; Travel warnings affect tourism.
Domestic borrowing and budget deficit: The Government’s high level of borrowing does not equal its slow progress on revenue generation. According to Kamanda Morara, an analyst at Ashanti Research: “The way this trend is going, we will soon have a debt crisis. We are borrowing too much to run a very expensive government and our import bill is rising fast”. The two-tier government system is proving to be quite expensive for the wage bill, considering the increased number of elected representatives. On July 7, 2013, the Daily Nation reported that: “Combined with the external debt, the cumulative public debt now stands at about Sh1.9 trillion, with the government projecting that this could rise to Sh2.4 trillion in three years.” The 2013/2014 national budget stands at Ksh1.642 trillion while the current budget deficit is Ksh356 billion. During the 2012/13 financial year, Kenya Revenue Authority collected Ksh861.9 billion as tax revenue, against a national budget of Ksh1.2 trillion. By April 30, 2013 the revenue collected had dropped to Ksh587.9 billion against the targeted Ksh817.4 billion.
Kibaki’s Ksh700 million office purchase: Why should the octogenerian get such a send-off, yet he left the country highly indebted and among the most corrupt. The latest Transparency International Corruption Index released a few days ago, ranks Kenya as the fourth most corrupt country in the world. Kibaki was built a retirement home worth Ksh500 million by taxpayers’ money, yet he does not live there. To make it worse, the Kenya National Oil Corporation was reported in May 2013 as planning to give him a petrol station worth Ksh50 million of taxpayers’ money as a ‘gift’ for his 10-year leadership. Kibaki is a billionaire who built his wealth from 1963 through corrupt Government deals, and should retire without costing Kenyans more financial headaches.
Laptops for Class One pupils: Already factored in the 2013/14 national budget, Uhuru is hellbent to fulfill this election pledge. However, there is no serious debate on the pedagogical values of this project for Class One children who are the target. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) recently confirmed that it has already developed digital content for all subjects and await to install them into the laptops. The content is definitely in the English language, yet many rural children don’t speak or read English by the time they begin Class One. The laptop program will be implemented in three phases beginning with 6000 schools instead of being provided to all Class One children in public schools as initially promised. The Education Cabinet Secretary Professor Kiamenyi now prefers tablets to laptops which he says are more user friendly to kids and that laptops will be obsolete within five years. For it to succeed, the laptop program requires a clear direction, otherwise it will face implementation challenges like Kibaki’s free primary education.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): Peter Tenna of Kenya National Organisation of Victims of Ethnic Clashes, was quoted in the Daily Nation June 26, 2013 saying: “IDPs voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee because of the promises the leaders made to us that the resettlement of pending cases would be done within the first 100 days,”. Another report in the Standard on July 6, 2013, mentioned that IDPs languishing in Nyandarua regret that the Government has not taken concrete steps to address their plight. The last time they received relief food supply was last December. “We were optimistic that the Government would resettle us in the first 100 days and that is why we voted for Uhuru. To our surprise, not even a single Government official has visited us like it used to happen before,” said Jane Nyokabi, a resident at Gwa Kungu camp.
Politicians in Cabinet: The so-called vetting of Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries showed that Parliament is a mere rubber stamp of Uhuru and cannot oppose anything he wants. Ruto claimed there would be no politician in the Cabinet, yet further appointments by Uhuru saw the return of yesteryear politicians like Najib Balala, Purity Ngilu and Kazungu Kambi. How can they agree to keep off politics while this is the game they have played for the past decade? Ngilu proved it by recently pushing Nduku Kilonzo (wife of late Senator Mutila Kilonzo), to contest the upcoming Makueni by-election. As Labor Secretary, Kazungu Kambi’s language is that of a politician and not a professional, while dealing with the just ended teachers’ strike. He exhibited ignorance as Health assistant minister in the last Government on issues concerning the sector during the medical personnel strikes. The worst is the tribal “homeboy” appointments of Secretaries, especially from Ruto’s Kalenjin tribe.
Free school milk: Government has allocated Ksh2.6 billion in the 2013/14 budget for free milk and school feeding program in public primary schools. However, there is concern that Uhuru will be involved in a serious conflict of interest if his Brookside Dairy Ltd will be part of the suppliers of free milk. He recently mentioned that local dairy companies (within the counties) would be offered such contracts. But Brookside has just bought 50% of Buzeki Dairy which supplies Molo Milk and controls 18% of the market. Full acquisition of Buzeki will be by the end of this August. Brookside had already bought its close competitors such as Delamare, Ilara and Spin Knit and controls a 42% stake with its three brands: Tuzo, Ilara and Brookside. Only the state-owned New KCC and Fresha, owned by Githunguri Dairies, remain independent so far. There is word that KCC will soon be privatized. With Brookside dominating the processed milk market, how will other small suppliers develop enough capacity to implement the school milk program? Will Uhuru prevent his private business from dealing with Government?