CRUSHING BURDEN

Cure for public debt? Reduce spending by half, says new CAS

Simiyu Wafukho advocates negotiating with IMF and World Bank for budget support and project financing.

In Summary

• CAS says he would like to support the country 'to move away from disconnected budgeting into one emerging out of plans'.

• He says he is keen on helping the Treasury achieve a perfect balance in state spending to free more for development in the face of the dwindling revenues.

Treasury CAS Eric Simiyu Wafukho during an interview in Nairobi on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
NEW BROOM: Treasury CAS Eric Simiyu Wafukho during an interview in Nairobi on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Image: MOSES ODHIAMBO

Newly appointed Treasury CAS Eric Wafukho on Tuesday said he will help the ministry reduce spending to ease pressure on the exchequer.

Wafukho told the Star that it would take renegotiation, rescheduling and restructuring of public debt, and he would be part of the process.

until his appointment, Wafukho was  the chief strategist for ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi. He sees Mudavadi as his mentor.

He said he is keen on helping the Treasury achieve a perfect balance in state spending to free more for development as revenues dwindle. 

The country’s budget deficit is set to cross the Sh1 trillion mark, money the Treasury has to borrow.

“That conversation is not only political but also technical. It is good we are at a point where the IMF and the World Bank have moved from conditionality to commitments, hence the relationship is stronger,” he said.

Wafukho said he seeks to nurture the relationship between the IMF, the World Bank and Kenya in such a way that they offer more in budget support and project financing.

“Having worked with Musalia Mudavadi and some multinational agencies, the conversation will be articulated,” he said in his first interview since his appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.

He added that he would also bolster efforts for projects driven under public-private partnerships.

“I know there is a department dealing with this. I support it as another source of funding that removes pressure from the government’s need to borrow. Some of the projects are on that platform, but there can be more,” he said.

Wafukho said he would like to support the country “to move away from disconnected budgeting into one emerging out of plans.

“There is more emphasis on the National Treasury and less focus on the planning process. If we focused on planning, we would spend better; cut our coat according to our size.”

He said there was a need to prioritise planning “above the political process that tends to focus on quick wins”.

He said he will also be ready to help President Kenyatta fast-track the implementation of the Big Four agenda.

“This plan was extracted from the Vision 2030 medium-term plan. It requires the right energy and conversation. I believe that if we do a good job as a government, it can help de-escalate the political environment.

“If a formula was found in which Kenyans energy was directed into what we can do now, not 2022, the agenda would be achievable. If it is to help to get the right messaging, I’d like to be part of it,” the CAS said.

There is more emphasis on the National Treasury and less focus on the planning process. If we focused on planning, we would spend better; cut our coat according to our size.
Treasury CAS Eric Simiyu

He backed the uptake of IMF and World Bank loans, citing their higher moratorium—some of 10 years; low-interest rate, and longer repayment period—which has been ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi’s clarion call.

“If we can move that conversation, we will free up resources to focus on development. We will have significant amounts through the negotiations. We will work to see and appreciate the situation we are in and the need to align budgets to development priorities.”

Wafukho says he is driven by the desire to make a difference; promote community building—where the community refers to coming together—cohesion and people living as a society.

On the BBI-driven constitutional review process whose critics argue would present new costing centres to taxpayers, he termed it necessary to bring stability to the governance system.

He argued that looking at the narrow margin between two sides in an election, there is a poor representation and the value of the vote is not adequately captured.

Wafukho said to move close to inclusion, there is the need to expand the space, citing the proposed office of Leader of Opposition as a right start.

"In sorting out representation and value of the vote, the question is how do you make the value of vote count."

He added that with the creation of five posts—President, Deputy President, Prime Minister and two deputies—the country would move from personality to issue-based politics.

"This is only possible when you address inclusion. The Nasa agreement had seen the same and was to review the governance architecture patterned under the Bomas Draft."