Lack of proper regulations stalls regional bloc projects

Friday, May 29th, 2020 00:00 | By
Kakamega County Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, also the Chairperson of the County of Governors at a previous event. Photo/PD/FILE

Several projects mooted by the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) have stalled for lack of regulations on formation and operation of regional economic blocs.

The fate of the projects among them a Sh2.8 billion regional bank now hangs in the balance even after the 14-member counties contributed millions of shillings from their allocations for the initiative.

LREB which brings together Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Kericho, Nandi, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia and Kakamega counties was formed in 2018 to foster development in the region.

The counties banked on the regional bank to avail low interest loans to support various initiatives at the same time support Small and Medium Enterprises to spur economic growth in the area.

Slow implementation

Besides the projects, operations at the LREB secretariat in Kisumu have also been greatly hampered by lack of funds.

LREB chairman Wycliffe Oparanya confirmed that lack of regulations on the regional blocs was to blame for slow implementation of the bank and other projects.

“Initially we used to contribute Sh2 million each from our county allocations to fund operations of the bloc but this stopped due to lack of a legal framework,” he disclosed.

Oparanya however confirmed that the bloc had not abandoned the projects but was engaged in high level consultations with the national government to fast rack the regulations to unlock funding from the county allocations.

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, he said, has assured the Council of Governors that the draft regulations were ready and will be taken to the National Assembly and Senate for debate and approval.

“We have had a series of meetings with Wamalwa who has assured us that the regulations are ready. We hope that the national Assembly and Senate will fast rack the process so that our projects remain on course,” he said.

Speaking to the media in Kisumu on Thursday, Oparanya, who is also the Kakamega Governor, rooted support for the regional blocs saying by counties coming together a lot of development shall be achieved.

Through LREB, the 14 counties had lined up other projects in infrastructure, Information Communication Technology (ICT), education, health, tourism, agriculture, trade, industrialisation, water, environment and climate change.

Governors from the lake region have resolved to focus on the revival of cotton and sugar industries as well as fast-tracking the formation of a regional bank to spur economic growth in the area.

The objective of the bloc is to leverage the economies of scale and shared resources such as Lake Victoria to grow the region’s economy and improve the livelihood of the people in the member counties.

The Chinese government had trained LREB agricultural officers - five from each member county - and that China would soon start a model farm of 200 hectares in one of the 14 counties to educate members on best farming practices.

To strengthen the partnership, the county bosses said LREB and the Chinese government will hold a joint investment conference in November. China will fund the meeting, they said.

They decried the sorry state of the sugar factories in the region and called for President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

In the textile industry, the governors resolved to partner with agencies, national government, and academic institutions to fast-track the revival of the sub-sector.  - KNA

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