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January 22, 2019

Budget deficit: You are being taken for a ride

Treasury cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich./FILE
Treasury cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich./FILE

This is a rhetorical column. Just like a rhetorical question, only a column. I won’t say anything that you don’t know already. And there is little practical point in saying it, because it won’t make any tangible difference, but it should be said because you’re being taken for a ride.

You know, of course, that Kenya is looking at yet another sizeable budget deficit. You’ve been told that GoK has no money for teachers, has no money for doctors and the overall improvement of medical services, and Kenya also just launched an appeal to the international community for help with the famine.

Let’s start on county level. Zero decency, zero shame, zero basic ethics in Kisii where the Kisii County Retirements Benefits Bill will award the governor, deputy, speaker, MCAs and former councillors massive financial benefits and, ridiculously, the governor and deputy governor will also bleed taxpayers dry by receiving an upmarket car that will be maintained and, every four years, replaced by taxpayers.

Former Presidents Moi and Kibaki will be given a 15.6 per cent increase of their already fat pension. They will now receive Sh74 million a year. A year! This is money that most Kenyan won’t see in their entire lifetime. Interestingly, this had been briefly stopped by the High Court which found that this would be an undue burden to the taxpayer (no kidding). But then Attorney General Githu Muigai – also due for a salary increase – appealed.

Remember when Mr Kenyatta announced in 2014 that he and Mr Ruto would take a voluntary 20 per cent salary cut? Has this ever happened? If it did, the charitable sentiment didn’t last very long: apparently they were given a 9.1 per cent salary increase last year and, if they are reelected this year, they will get another 10 per cent increase. This is pretty much the opposite of Treasury’s earlier efforts to freeze their pay until 2018. So much for the head of state’s commitment to reducing the public wage bill. Kenyan MPs already have an income that is off the scale, literally – the Economist tried to compare MP incomes around the world in relation to per capita GDP and Kenya’s figure did not fit onto the chart.

So, again: why does this country not have money for doctors and famine victims? Rhetorical question. I will quite happily swear and use rude words off the page, but unfortunately that’s not possible here. This isn’t sensible stewardship of your taxes. You’re being taken for a ride. And there’s a reason why the opposition is so silent on this: Because they cannot wait to get onto that ride, too.

Andrea Bohnstedt is an independent analyst


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