Pandemic wipes out vibe of annual budget rituals

Friday, June 12th, 2020 00:00 | By
Woman Representative Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga), Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, Kirinyaga woman rep Purity Ngirichi and her Nairobi counterpart Esther Passaris during the budget reading at the Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

This year’s budget presentation in Parliament lacked the usual pomp and colour,  thanks to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

There were no cocktails and courtesies, and Speaker Justin Muturi was quick to dismiss members immediately Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani completed his presentation instead of inviting them to Parliament Gardens for refreshments.

Unlike past events where the chamber is usually full to capacity with members from both Houses attending, yesterday’s presentation was attended by a handful of members, 63 to be precise. Neither Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka nor his senators attended the event though they had been invited as procedure dictates.

The man of the day, Yatani, who was making his debut, did not show signs of nervousness and lived to his billing as a seasoned executive.

Clad in a navy blue suit and a red tie, Yatani arrived in Parliament at 2.42pm accompanied by other Treasury mandarins led by the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Nelson Gaichuhie, Principal Secretary Julius Muia and Planning Principal Secretary Torome Saitoti.

Reopen economy

Yatani’s speech, though detailed, lasted one-and-a-half hours, slightly shorter than those read by his predecessors, which lasted more than two hours.

Unlike previous events where members cheer positive fiscal measures made by the CS, yesterday the few members in the House were relatively quiet as the speech majorly centered on post-corona efforts and only a limited allocation to development.

The Speaker’s Gallery which is packed with government top officials including heads of state agencies and Treasury top managers was almost empty with only a handful of parliament security officers.

Meanwhile, MPs had divergent views with a majority terming the speech as ambitious but were optimistic that the needs of the already economically hard hit common Kenyan will be addressed.

Limuru MP, Peter Mwathi termed the budget as “very ambitious” but hoped the post-Covid-19 recovery measures taken by the CS will work.

“The problem is that if not well managed the post-corona recovery will be disastrous,” said Mwathi.

He said for the recovery process to kick off, the government must re-open the economy since it is now apparent that the pandemic is here to stay.

Wajir East’s Rashid Kassim, said the budget was not friendly to the rural and semi-arid Kenyans as it centred on urban economies.

“The budget is meant to maintain status quo with a lot of urban initiatives being considered. We expected the economic growth in semi- arid to be rejuvenated by adequate funding of sectors like agriculture and livestock. The Sh52 billion is not enough,” said Rashid.

Raise revenue

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria termed the budget as good, saying Yatani tried well to balance all sectors.

Kuria, however, said he expected to see more bold measures like debt management, which is likely to get to unmanageable levels if not controlled.

“I also expected something to be done with privatisation as one of the areas that the Treasury can raise revenue,” noted Kuria.

Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East) said increased funding to the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution was the highlight of the budget.

“It defeats logic for the country to raise revenue which ends up in the hands of a few individuals through corruption. We need to strengthen these two bodies,” said Washiali.

Mohamed Ali (Nyali) cautioned Kenyans against celebrating the budget, saying they were likely to bear with huge taxation to fund it.

“It is too early to celebrate the budget, funding will be the catch. The Treasury must look for money to fund the programmes and taxation will be key,” warned Ali.

More on News