Uhuru's vaunted Big Four will fail 2022 deadline

President unlikely to seal his legacy — health, housing, food security and manufacturing —in his remaining term.

In Summary

• PBO says policy direction for next year’s budget is unclear, saying there is not much prominence in the budget for key projects to turn around the economy.

• PBO says it is apparent that many of the Big Four targets will not be met by the current administration.

President Uhuru Kenyatta.
LEGACY IN JEOPARDY? President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious legacy popularly known as the Big Four is not achievable during his tenure, parliamentary budget experts have said.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) says the virtually impossible endeavour is due to inadequate funding, heavy debt and the challenges of Covid-19.

Budget experts say the Big Four appears very peripheral to the budget, despite having been allocated about Sh135 billion for the next fiscal year.

They pointed out that no significant effort has been made to realise the goals of manufacturing, food security, universal healthcare and affordable housing – the Big Four. 

“Since 2021-22 is the last ‘full’ financial year of implementation, it is apparent that many of the Big Four targets will not be met by the current administration,” PBO said in its review of the budget read by Treasury CS Ukur Yatani on June 10.

The economists argue the policy direction for next year’s budget is unclear, saying there is not much prominence in the budget for key projects expected to turn around the economy.

“Resources appear to have simply followed previous trends with the bulk being allocated to education and infrastructure sectors, as has often been the case,” the team said.

PBO further reasons there is no further discussion of how the government will ensure that at least a certain percentage of the targets are met.

The experts further hold that budgetary allocations towards Big Four projects tend to be adjusted downwards during the supplementary budget.

“There hasn’t been any real commitment towards implementation of the Big Four agenda,” the PBO team said in its report.

For instance, in manufacturing, President Kenyatta sought to support value addition and raise the share of the sector to GDP by 15 per cent by 2022.

However, PBO said progress has been slow in the textile and leather subsector interventions, which were set to deliver the agenda.

Activities were to include planting of Bt cotton, modernisation of cotton ginneries and the completion of the Athi River textile hub.

For leather, PBO observed that the main intervention was the completion of Machakos Leather Park, whose 2022-23 completion target remains to be seen.

The experts further observed other critical infrastructure is missing in the Kenanie Leather Park, among them roads, water supply and energy, hence, making them unattractive to private investors.

On food, the team cited the failure of large-scale irrigation schemes, notably the Galana Kulalu, which is largely unsuccessful.

“On post-harvest handling, there are attempts to set up facilities and other mechanisms but status of implementation is not clear and post-harvest losses still remain a challenge.”

“Fish landing sites continue to receive allocations from the budget but the status and impact remain unclear,” PBO said.

On health, the experts hold that the outstanding issues in the governance and structure of NHIF have not been addressed over three years.

This has hampered the desire for the NHIF to fully transition into a social insurer, with experts saying the challenges with the medical equipment scheme have compounded the woes.

MES has been plagued by inefficient procurement processes, lack of specialised personnel to manage the equipment, no infrastructure to run it and high operational costs.

PBO further holds that President Kenyatta will equally not achieve the 500,000 affordable residences as only 1,370 units have been achieved under the programme.

The houses at Park Road, they said, account for 0.3 per cent of the target. The current budget has provided Sh12 billion to deliver 3,336 units by financial year 2021-22.

They further questioned the lack of details on the status of ongoing development projects, “thereby making it difficult to monitor projects, some of which have become permanent in the budget".

PBO also pointed out the lack of clarity on the extraordinary effort being put to streamline and prioritise investment spending to improve the effectiveness of development budgets.

(Edited by V. Graham)