Chairman Oparanya says formulation of a legal framework to guide regional blocs almost complete
Projects of the Lake Region Economic Bloc, including the establishment of a Sh2.8 billion bank, are still on course.
LREB acting Chief Executive officer Abala Wanga on Friday told member counties that flagship projects like the establishment of the Lake Region Development Bank and the revival of maritime transport service on Lake Victoria have not stalled.
He said bloc intends to achieve sustainable development through coordination, promotion, resource mobilisation, innovation, and enhancement of economic integration.
Wanga said they are still committed to leveraging the economies of scale for better livelihoods of the approximately 14 million residents of the bloc's 14 counties.
Wanga who was recently reappointed to his position following his resignation last year, said their commitment towards the development agenda remains steadfast and that the realisation of the bank remains anchored on a people-driven economy and the need for more access to finances.
The regional development bank will be the best solution to the people’s financial challenges, he said. "We are committed to ensuring the realisation of the projects for the benefit of residents."
The bloc was formed in 2018 to spur economic development. Member counties are Kisumu, Migori, Nandi, Bomet, Kakamega, Siaya, Busia, Homa Bay, Kisii, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kericho and Nyamira.
Wanga spoke on Friday during a meeting with Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga on County Resource Development Bill, 2020, at the LREB office in Kisumu.
The bill has been formulated by Nyamunga. She said for the bloc to flourish, the bank must succeed. “We want member counties to be able to make use of their natural resources equitably and efficiently,” Nyamunga said.
She pledged to initiate a two-day technical meeting to deliberate on the bill for it to reflect on the interests of bloc members.
The meeting will comprise technocrats from the Senate, LREB, and representatives of other regional blocs.
Counties are hoping the regional bank will make available low-interest loans to support various initiatives, including Small and Medium Enterprises to spur economic growth.
To establish the bank, each county is required to contribute to Sh200 million. Already, Sh800 million has been committed.
Two months ago, LREB chairman Wycliffe Oparanya assured that the projects will be implemented despite challenges in transferring funds from counties.
He dismissed claims that LREB unity has been scuttled. Oparanya said the projects had temporarily stalled over lack of regulations on the formation and operation of economic blocs.
The Kakamega governor said the lack of regulations was to blame for the slow implementation of the bank and other projects.
The operations at the LREB secretariat headquarters in Kisumu had also been affected by a lack of funds.
“It is not true that things are quiet. It is only that it was impossible to transfer funds from counties to the bloc,” Oparanya said.
He said lack of a national framework to allow the transfer of funds from counties to the bloc was the reason that derailed operations.
“We have been in several discussions with Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa on the matter,” Oparanya said.
He said a draft policy on economic bloc was already in place with input by stakeholders and that it was being finalised.
“We hope soon it will be at the Cabinet at the national level for approval. As soon as it is approved, it will go to the National Assembly and Senate for debate and thereafter there will be a proper framework,” Oparanya said.
The framework will allow the flow of funds from counties to the bloc to facilitate the implementation of projects. Oparanya said all economic blocs across the country have been affected.
Oparanya said members of the economic bloc were contributing Sh2 million each per month to sustain secretariat operations but that stopped. “It has been very difficult to push the bloc,” he said.
Wanga said a bill for the enactment of the bank has been signed by more than six counties including Busia, Nyamira, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori and Kakamega.
Edited by P.O