Kenya: Do Ruto’s manifesto pledges add up?

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Friday, 1 July 2022 12:51

Ruto may be unable to prevent a sovereign rating downgrade for Kenya this year. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

In a move to outsmart his main challenger, Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto unveiled a detailed manifesto complete with budgets and timelines. Will voters trust his word this time round and ignore the unfulfilled promises made in 2017?

After weeks of delay attributed to ‘fine-tuning matters’, Ruto finally took the podium to launch his ‘hustler manifesto’.

Addressing guests at the Kasarani Sports Centre gymnasium, Ruto termed the event as the beginning of a journey towards a better and prosperous Kenya.

“This is [the] momentous occasion we had been waiting for and as we head to the 9 August general election we want to assure Kenyans that we are ready to serve them,” he said amid cheers from supporters who had donned the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party colours (yellow, green and black).

The document dubbed ‘the plan’ is anchored on six key pillars: agriculture and food security, small and medium enterprise financing, housing, health access, information and communication technology and creative economy and lastly environment and climate change.

“During our bottom-up economic dialogue in the 47 counties, that brought to the fore the sufferings of Kenyans as a result of the high cost of food, high level of unemployment, especially among the youthful population, and the high cost of health services, we were able to anchor our interventions around the six pillars,” the deputy president said.

Employment creation

On job creation, Ruto pledged that the Kenya Kwanza government will invest KSh500bn ($4.2bn) over the next five years in lower level agriculture and informal sectors  to create opportunities for women and youth.

“An inclusive employment-creating economic model is about investing the limited capital available where it creates the most employment and that is at the bottom of the pyramid,” he said, adding that white collar jobs in both public and private sectors are no longer enough to absorb the thousands of young educated Kenyans.

Food production

To ensure self-sufficiency in food production, the deputy president promised to make available affordable fertilisers, quality seeds as well as farm equipment, and ensure access to loans by investing at least KSh250bn ($2bn) in the agricultural sector over the next five years.

He also pledged to transform two million farmers from food-deficit to surplus producers by implementing a multimillion programme that will focus on improving their livelihood.

Ruto said it is unfortunate that Kenya spends KSh360bn ($3bn) annually to import food products that can be grown locally to help spur economic growth and create employment.

Manufacturing production

On manufacturing, the deputy president promised to increase its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to double digits, conceding that the sector is underperforming due to a myriad of problems.

“The challenge is that our manufacturing has always focused on capital intensive investment rather than labour investment outcomes and we are committed to change the trend,” he said.

The Kenya Kwanza alliance flagbearer singled out the leather industry, which he argued has been neglected despite its potential to create millions of jobs and earn the country the badly needed foreign exchange.

“We slaughter 3 million  livestock every year. We only use 10% of our hides and skins. Meanwhile, we are importing 20 million pairs of shoes every year,” he said, vowing to turn around the industry using the right skills and equipment.

Prior to this one, every manifesto looked the same. I love the detail. It also shows that the alliance took time to listen to people. It is a product of intense work

The Kenya Kwanza government, he noted, will focus on producing pharmaceutical products locally to save the country billions of dollars spent on importing medicine from Asian countries.

“Our total expenditure on health is KSh50bn ($427m) every year of which 20% is spent on importing pharmaceutical products, which we can produce locally by increasing production in our industries, which are currently operating below capacity,” he told the gathering.

Like Raila, the deputy president promised to revive the textile industry saying his administration will embark on growing Bt cotton (genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety), which is drought resistant, to ensure the country has enough raw material to produce quality garments for local and export markets.

Quality education

On education, the deputy president pledged to complete the construction of 52 technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions in various constituencies and vocational training centres in 250 county wards.

He also pledged to ensure public universities are well funded saying the institutions are reeling under a KSh65bn ($555m) debt owed to various government institutions, a situation that has compromised tertiary education in the country.

To make education affordable, the deputy president promised to lower charges for utilities such as electricity, water and internet in educational institutions.

Free healthcare

Again, like Raila, the deputy president pledged to put in place a universal health insurance that will enable every Kenyan have access to healthcare services in hospitals and clinics free of charge.

“We have committed to the people of Kenya that we will have universal health insurance that will enable every Kenyan to seek treatment in hospital and walk away without paying a penny,” said Ruto.

It will not be easy to get the amount of money quoted for various sectors and programmes especially if the alliance does not have a majority in both the national assembly and senate

The Kenya Kwanza alliance also pledged to establish a fund for chronic illnesses and injuries that are usually exempt from private insurance cover, to ease the burden of medical costs that have impoverished many ordinary Kenyans.

Security improvement

To improve the country’s security, Ruto promised to not only employ more officers, but also improve their terms of service to boost their morale. He also pledged to accelerate the Jubilee administration’s affordable housing project to ensure more Kenyans have a roof over their heads.

Jerotich Seii, a human rights activist, is pleased with the contents of the manifesto. She describes it as different from past documents that were mainly vague.

“Prior to this one, every manifesto looked the same. I love the detail. It also shows that the alliance took time to listen to people. It is a product of intense work,” says Seii.

Statement of intent

However, Prof Peter Wayande, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, differs saying the document is too detailed to qualify to be called a manifesto.

“You do not put detail in a manifesto. A manifesto is a statement of intent and you leave the details for the next level. It is after taking over government that you can now begin talking about programmes and how you are going to finance them, “ he says.

According to the university don, the constitution is clear about the budgeting process hence it cannot be done by a political party that has not captured power.

Githinji Kariuki, a tax expert, concurs saying though the Kenya Kwanza alliance did a good job in outlining its key issues, it might find it difficult getting the exact amount of funds quoted for various programmes due to Kenya’s unique budget-making process that also involves public participation.

“It will not be easy to get the amount of money quoted for various sectors and programmes especially if the alliance does not have a majority in both the national assembly and senate. The realisation of the programmes will also depend on the amount of revenue generated.”

Kenya Kwanza Manifesto at a Glance

Agriculture & Food Security

  • An investment of at least KSh250bn in five years effective 2023
  • Transforming two million poor farmers from food-deficit to surplus producers
  • Raising the productivity of key-value food chains and cutting basic food imports by 30%

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME)

  • Providing KSh50bn annually to provide MSMEs with reliable access to credit
  • Provide one street trading premises for every 50 urban residents
  • Increase the daily income of informal traders by KSh200
  • Establishing MSME Business Development Centre in every ward

Housing and Settlement

  • New 250,000 affordable houses every year through public-private partnership
  • Grow the number of mortgages to one million
  • Settlement Fund to acquire land and resettle up to one million landless families

Health Care

  • Fully publicly financed primary healthcare
  • Establish a fund for chronic illnesses
  • National Hospital Insurance Fund membership to be mandatory

ICT & Creative Economy

  • Construct 100,000 kilometre fiber optic connectivity network
  • Roll out fibre to counties, villages, schools, over 24,000 businesses and homes
  • Establish Africa Regional Hub and promote the development of Software for export

Infrastructure

  • Complete all roads under construction
  • Construct 700km road along the Isiolo-Kula, Mawe-Modogashe-Samatar-Wajir-Kutulo-Elwak-Ramu corridor

Education

  • Pay for in-service teacher training
  • Bridge current teacher shortage gap within two financial years
  • Review the current exam-based system of academic progression and introduce alternative entry criteria
  • Merge Higher Education Loans Board (HELB), Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Funding Board and University Funding Board under a National Skill & Funding Council
  • Set up a National Open University and implement 100 percent transition to higher education
  • Increase funding to research and development institutions from 0.8% to 2% of GDP

Gender

  • Two-thirds gender rule in elective and appointive positions in public sector, within 12 months
  • 50% of cabinet positions for women.
  • Ensure 100% enforcement of the spousal consent legal provisions in land transaction

Governance

  • Complete the transfer of all functions constitutionally earmarked as devolved functions to counties within six months
  • Strengthen the office of the Attorney General
  • Audit judicial liabilities and shortcomings within the first three months
  • Strengthen police oversight and appoint an Ombudsman to focus on human rights violations of youth
  • Appoint all judges nominated by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for appointment to the Court of Appeal within seven days
  • Establish a Special Tribunal for Gross Human Rights Violations and Enforced Disappearances
  • Timely and predictable transfer of sharable revenue to counties

Security services

  • Contributory benevolent fund for families of fallen and terminal ill officers
  • Insurance cover for loss of life on duty
  • Review and improve pay for all officers in the security sector

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