DEBT CEILING RAISED

Senate votes to pave way for more state borrowing

30 senators vote for motion against seven who reject it in heated debate

In Summary

•Debate punctuated by shouting matches and claims of coercion by House leadership to pass motion

•Majority leader Murkomen and his Minority counterpart Orengo lead support for motion

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka
PASSED: Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka
Image: JANE CHEROTICH

The Senate yesterday voted for more state borrowing, endorsing the National Treasury’s bid to raise the country’s debt ceiling to Sh9 trillion.

Thirty Senators voted in support of the motion against seven members after a heated debate.

The passage, which came barely a fortnight after the National Assembly gave its nod, now gives the National Treasury’s notice to amend the Public Finance Management (National Debt) (Regulations), 2019.

 
 
 

The regulations provide for a limit to the total public debt of Sh9 trillion in place of the current limit set at 50 per cent of the domestic product (GDP) or about Sh6.1 trillion.

Yesterday's vote was preceded by a heated debate on Tuesday punctuated by shouting matches and claims of coercion by the House leadership to pass the motion.

While debating a report of a joint committee on Finance and Budget and Delegation Legislation, the majority of members recommended the change of law to raise the debt cap.

But a section of lawmakers rejected the bid, saying the move would lead to an economic meltdown in the country.

“Pursuant to Standing Order 210 (4) and having examined all laws, the committee recommends that the House approves the said statutory instruments,” West Pokot Senator Samuel Pogishio said while moving the motion.

Senators Moses Wetang'ula (Bungoma), Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Millicent Omanga (nominated) and Victor Prengei (nominated) opposed the motion.

Mutula who co-chaired the joint committee lamented that the first amendment done in the National Assembly to allow the Treasury to raise the ceiling from Sh1.2 trillion to Sh2.3 trillion was never sent to the Senate for input.

 
 
 

“In 2015, after they sought amendments which were approved by National Assembly without recourse to the Senate, remove numerical ceiling of Sh2.5 trillion to 50 per cent of GDP. That is where the theatre of the absurd started. History is going to judge us,” said Mutula.

“My colleagues, what is the problem with telling Treasury to amend this notice to reduce this ceiling to Sh7.5 trillion as recommended by Public Budget Office? We have asked for justification of Sh9 trillion and we have not been given. Some people in these offices think legislators are zombies.”

Cheruiyot cautioned the country’s debt level was already unmanageable and wondered how the debt will be serviced in the wake of dwindling revenue collection.

“How can I be forced to approve this debt ceiling when I can’t even see a single project implemented in my ward using this borrowed money?” he said.

Nandi Senator Cherargei, a close ally of DP Ruto, said the country’s economy was not doing well and urged the House and Kenyans to reject the "treasonous and slippery borrowing."

However, senators who supported the motion led by Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and his Minority counterpart James Orengo said the raising the debt ceiling will help the government to restructure and redeem itself in the wake of a looming budget crisis.

“Let’s pass this regulation so that we can save our country from grinding to a halt for lack of money to implement projects,” Murkomen said.