William Ruto’s difficult task in reversing SGR deals, anniversary policies


William Ruto’s difficult task in reversing SGR deals, anniversary policies

President-elect William Ruto delivers his speech during the opening meeting with Kenyan Kwanza leaders at his official residence in Karen August 17, 2022. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

President-elect William Ruto faces a difficult task in reversing the outgoing government’s key policies, including returning Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) port operations to the coast and canceling the Dubai Port Deals.

As part of his campaign promises, he is also being asked to review the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to address challenges identified by teachers and parents.

During the campaigns, the Kenyan Kwanza leader promised to reverse legal and administrative changes regarding the use of the SGR in order to move operations back to Mombasa.

The coalition also raised questions about a deal signed with Dubai ports operator DP World to develop and operate various port components in Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu.

DP World has been trying to operate the Port of Mombasa since 2015, but proposals have stalled due to politics over the port’s sovereignty and objections from Mombasa unions who fear job and wage cuts.

Port union officials and logisticians had been at odds with the policies of President Uhuru Kenyatta, including the SGR, which has been accused of moving businesses and jobs to inland depots in Nairobi and Naivasha.

The completion of the depots and the commencement of freight services were expected to provide significant support and anchor the development of the proposed Naivasha Industrial Park.

The President-elect vowed to return major operations that have been relocated to Naivasha and Nairobi to the coast to end the economic deprivation of local communities.

“It was never the government’s intention to build the SGR so that coastal residents could be impoverished. The SGR should make the port much more efficient and improve the business and wealth of coastal residents,” said Dr. Ruth.

“Unfortunately, a few people took the whole project hostage and ended up with selfish programs to the detriment of coastal residents.”

Ruto’s pledge to reverse some of the Jubilee government’s policies will unsettle investors who have subscribed to the outgoing government’s policies.

Kenya is committed to repaying the Sh327 billion it borrowed for the project from the Exim Bank of China in May 2014 and began repaying it last year after the five-year grace period expired.

Changing priorities by new governments also tends to leave behind several white elephant projects that could pile up outstanding bills, increase change costs and expose Kenya to legal claims for damages from disadvantaged contractors if canceled.

The Budget Committee of the National Assembly said hundreds of Sh9 trillion development projects started during the regimes of Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta have stalled.

The Kenya Public Expenditure Review, released by the World Bank, showed that Kenya had 4,000 ongoing projects, many of which were significantly delayed, incomplete or stalled.

The bank said 40 percent of projects became white elephants during the transition to decentralization, with 195 irrigation projects initiated in President Mwai Kibaki’s second term and no funds allocated by county governments.

Approximately 53 projects are on hold due to a variety of factors including litigation, evasion, land acquisition and suspension of donor funding. Another reason projects have stalled has been the imposition of budget caps by the Treasury, eager to rein in spending.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have called on the government to cancel some of the stalled projects amid a liquidity crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new president has also indicated he will crack down on companies that benefited from the Jubilee government’s policies, accusing them of state capture.

Kenya Kwanza pledged in his manifesto to launch a quasi-judicial public inquiry within 30 days to assess the level of nepotism and government capture in the nation and make recommendations.

However, the new president played down animosity towards his predecessor, President Kenyatta, saying his government will show him respect and honor in his retirement.

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