• In 2018, Ruto defended the government against criticism over its debt appetite.
• He told off the opposition and others who had questioned the sustainability of the debt.
Deputy President William Ruto has made a surprise U-turn to censure the government’s heavy borrowing, which he fiercely defended in the past.
In what could cause collision with his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto criticised the excessive borrowing saying it is crippling the economy and complicating life for Kenyans.
“I think you have all heard that as of today, even the unborn babies owe our lenders,” Ruto said on Sunday.
He spoke during a service for Friends Church (Quakers) at Malava Primary School grounds in Lugari constituency, Kakamega county.
The DP, in an indictment of the government he helped form, attributed the rising public debt to a battered economy that is riddled with joblessness and a poor population.
He reiterated that the government is struggling to raise enough revenue to run its operations because most Kenyans, especially the youth, are jobless and thus cannot pay taxes.
“When everyone is empowered, citizens are able to pay taxes and the government will have enough revenue. We will not resort to lenders like China to extend loans to us. These loans we have acquired are bringing us bad luck,” Ruto said.
He added, “The only way to end this indebtedness is to enable citizens in the villages to do lucrative businesses.”
Ruto has not been seeing eye to eye with Uhuru and his attack comes just days after the President publicly dared him to resign for criticising the government from within.
The DP’s hasty retreat and scathing attack on Jubilee’s borrowing record has come as a shocker for a man who has been tearing into anyone and everyone criticising the government.
At the height of Sh250 billion Eurobond controversy, Ruto accused Raila of malice and vowed that not even a shilling was stolen.
On February 24, 2018, just days before the handshake, Ruto defended Kenya’s rising debt burden and insisted the country has the capacity to pay back.
“We are borrowing with discipline, a plan and are focused on what we want to spend the money on... Those complaining about Kenya securing funds for infrastructure should know we are not Goldenberg and other scandals," he stated.
He assured Kenyans that they would initiate development projects that will spark economic growth in the country.
The Jubilee government has been on a borrowing spree since it was elected in 2013.
On Monday, Haron Sirma, director-general in charge of public debt management at the National Treasury, told a Senate committee that the country’s debt portfolio stood at Sh7.28 trillion as of December last year.
Uhuru’s administration inherited slightly more than Sh1.89 trillion debt from former President Mwai Kibaki’s regime.
This implies that the Jubilee government has borrowed about Sh5.48 trillion for the eight years it has been in place with about Sh3.5 trillion borrowed in their first term, between 2013 and 2017.
In the draft budget review outlook, the Treasury is set to borrow an additional Sh1.84 trillion by June next year to plug a deficit.
Ruto, who championed Jubilee’s manifesto that promised to create about one million jobs every year, said the economy was struggling because most Kenyans are jobless and thus cannot pay taxes.
While rooting for his 2022 presidency, the DP said if elected, his ‘hustler’ administration would empower the masses, support businesses and make them profitable – strong enough to pay taxes.
“We will turn around the country’s economy. We will not be starting from the top. We will start from down here where wananchi are doing their businesses. We will put money for businesses in your shops here,” he said.
Last month, Ruto, who has alleged a plot to edge him out of the government, claimed the Jubilee administration has failed to fulfil its pledges, especially in their second term.
He heaped the blame on ODM leader Raila Odinga whose handshake with the President, he claimed, has derailed the government’s agenda.
“You came and changed the government’s priorities from the Big Four agenda to alternative ones like the Building Bridges Initiative. Now, after you have failed miserably, you want to run away,” Ruto said.
Edited by P.O