As president William Ruto marks one year in power, many Kenyans, analysts and experts continue to rate him fairly while more others say there is nothing much to write home about as yet.
Those who say Ruto’s administration has achieved much in just one year cite a number of projects he has initiated which have been, or are being implemented, while the disillusioned lot say contrary to his vehement campaign promises to lower the cost of living, among other things, the last one year has been mere misery and suffering.
And as the Ruto administration chest-thumps about achieving one goal here and another there, The Informer Media Group dives into a candid scorecard of the Kenya Kwanza government one year after assuming office.
The ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition made many campaign promises in its manifesto, a number of which will require the setting up of special funds to be actualized.
The much hyped Hustler Fund, for instance, seemed to be president William Ruto’s pet agendas during campaigns, which he launched soon after taking over.
The Hustler Fund emerged as the most popular affirmative action fund of the William Ruto presidency, becoming operational in December 2022, with government setting aside Sh50 billion to provide cheaper credit for individuals in micro and small businesses.
With the launch and actualization of the fund, millions of excited Kenyans opted in and started borrowing with gusto, while there were still many questions ranging from access to the repayment of various loans extended.
Barely a year later, loan defaults under the state-backed financial inclusion fund, have threatened to derail the government’s commitment to cheap credit. Many Kenyans cited low credit amounts and ‘unfair’ increase in loan limits, coupled with harsh economic times.
The Kenya Kwanza administration succeeded in initiating the Hustler Fund which has so far lent out in excess of Sh30 billion to individuals, micro, small and medium enterprises.
The opposition Azimio leadership may also have played a role in loan defaulting, after urging Kenyans to “borrow and don’t repay,” claiming the fund is from proceeds of corruption.
But out of the Hustler Fund’s outstanding Sh10.2 billion loans at the end of last month, 29 per cent of the monies lent out were categorized as portfolio-at-risk, implying the sums had not been serviced as per agreed terms.
This implies that nearly Sh3 billion loans under the programme are ranked as non-performing. The ratio of non-performing loans for the fund surpasses default rates for facilities by other financial institutions including banks whose rate of default stood at a mere 14.5 per cent at the end of June.
The affordable housing agenda was another key pillar in president William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance manifesto, billed as one that will solve the country’s housing crisis while providing jobs to about a million people a year.
The housing pillar of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) not only aims to improve the quality of life for people but also serves as an economic stimulus, promoting enterprise growth and job creation.
The overall target by the president is to construct 200,000 affordable housing units annually, a project expected to create between 600,000 and one million jobs each year.
In the 2023/2024 financial year, the government allocated Sh35.2 billion towards the Housing programme, while also mobilizing resources to support the construction of affordable housing units and social housing units.
However, looking down his one year in office, president Ruto has only managed to initiate the construction of at least 40,000 units, creating a deficit of 160,000 units.
On matters health, Kenya Kwanza, during campaigns, acknowledged that many Kenyans were still pushed into extreme poverty due to the high cost of medical care, saying there was need to be more creative and ambitious in how substantial resources are spent on healthcare to address old and emerging challenges.
It particularly singled out the growing burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes-related complications, noting that if not addressed urgently, it will become a threat not only to health but also to the socio-economic well-being of the country.
“The HIV, TB, malaria, family planning, immunization, and nutrition programmes are key donor-funded programmes and the gains already realized must be guarded jealously.” Kenya Kwanza manifesto says.
However, despite that, the health sector received a funding cut after the National Treasury reduced its allocation by Sh5.6 billion in president Ruto’s maiden budget, allocating the Health ministry Sh141.2 billion, down from Sh146.8 billion in the 2022/2023 financial year, which was seen by various health stakeholders as an impediment to the implementation of key health projects.
Despite the pledges to anchor the sector on preventive and promotive health through UHC, the programme received a drastic funding cut to Sh18.4 billion, down from the Sh62.3 billion allocated in his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta’s last budget of 2022/2023.
On agriculture, president Ruto announced an ambitious agricultural transformation plan to address the pressing economic challenges faced by millions of Kenyan farmers.
Focusing on the agricultural sector which employs over 70 per cent of the country’s workforce, the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda aims to revitalize the economy, combat unemployment, and alleviate poverty, bearing in mind that for years, Kenyans have grappled with unemployment, low incomes, and the soaring cost of essential commodities.
Recognizing that the underperformance of agriculture was the primary cause of Kenya’s economic challenges, president Ruto underscored the need for strategic interventions in the agricultural sector.
To ignite the national economy and steer it toward inclusive growth, the president proposed a shift from subsidizing consumption to subsidizing production. The strategic objective of this intervention was to empower all Kenyan farmers to transform their production from meager subsistence to surplus production, achieving food security and sustainable incomes.
One of the key aspects of this transformative agenda was the provision of high-quality inputs, particularly fertilizer, to enhance agricultural productivity.
Due to limited arable land and an increasing population, maximizing crop yields through better inputs is critical. The government’s plan is to deliver 300,000 metric tonnes or 6,000,000 bags of subsidized fertilizer at a reduced cost, effectively cutting the price from Ksh7,000 to KSh3,500 per bag.
In addition, the introduction of a transparent e-voucher system, developed in partnership with Safaricom, aimed to manage the distribution of subsidized fertilizer efficiently, eliminating brokers and middlemen to concentrate maximum benefits on the farmers.
Through this digital farmer registration exercise, over five million farmers were registered, and over 3.6 million e-vouchers were issued, ensuring direct delivery of fertilizer based on land acreage and crop production capacity.
To further increase agricultural productivity, president Ruto announced the commencement of the second phase of the agricultural transformation plan. The cost of fertilizer per 50kg bag would be reduced from Ksh3,500 to Ksh2,500, with the aim of encouraging higher uptake of fertilizers for increased production in successive planting seasons.
Moreover, the government allocated increased budgetary support to the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), raising it from Sh2 billion to Sh10 billion to provide affordable credit at single-digit rates, thereby further reducing production costs and enhancing productivity.
Through partnerships with the private sector and county governments, a comprehensive mechanization program was also in the works to increase the availability of tractors and farming machinery, fostering greater efficiency and productivity among farmers.
Amid all the promises, though, there are agricultural sectors which have experienced perennial challenges and which need urgent attention.
For instance, president Ruto recently acknowledged trouble in the sugar sector and promised the Western Kenya sugar-growing region that his administration will ensure the sugar problem is done away with, citing cartels and middlemen who exploited farmers.
Ruto also declared that he would personally deal with sugar cartels and that no one would go to the region and take over.
“This property belongs to the people of Kenya, and we will not accept anyone whose intention is to take advantage of our people. We work for the people of Kenya and not business people.” Ruto said recently, referring to troubled Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega County.
The president also proposed the waiver of Sh117 billion in debts accrued by sugar factories, a move that will see six sugar millers–Nzoia, South Nyanza (Sony), Chemelil, Mumias, Muhoroni and Miwani–revived amid suspension and receivership woes.
Another agricultural sector that has faced deep-rooted challenges for decades is coffee farming, where the same issues of middlemen and cartels seem to be haunting farmers.
The Ruto administration has admitted that the sub-sector needs a complete turnaround to be able to benefit farmers.
Cognizant of this, president Ruto tasked his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, who has repeatedly insisted that farmers deserve to earn a decent living from their sweat, to lead the coffee sub-sector reforms in the country.
He (Gachagua) is on record saying one of the measures they have employed to achieve this is by engaging stakeholders in high-value coffee markets, adding that this will enable farmers to achieve better prices.
“Coffee reforms are steadily on track. Our farmers must earn what they deserve – more money in their pockets. One of the strategies of doing so is engaging high-value markets for better prices.” Gachagua said.
Currently, the DP is in Colombia attending the Coffee Producers and Roasters Forum to agitate for the same.
On the security front, Kenya has borne the brunt of deadly terrorist attacks for years, with very recent attacks reported in Lamu County near the border with Somalia. Several civilians and security officers have died following the attacks.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has since expressed the government’s commitment to modernize and reform the security sector of the country through training, capacity building, and technology to tackle modern-day security challenges.
The Interior CS outlined the government’s commitment to modernize police equipment under the Security Equipment Modernization Programme and to build officers’ leadership capacity and reform the organizational culture of the security agencies.
Domestic criminal gangs have also been reigning terror on innocent citizens in parts of the country, claiming dozens of lives. There have been mysterious abductions and disappearances of people, mainly businesspeople, some of whom are found dead.
The infamous Shakahola massacre incident cannot go unnoticed as one of the most glaring security breaches by the Ruto administration, where hundreds of Kenyans, adherents of a religious cult, succumbed to misleading teachings leading them to starve themselves to death to ‘meet their maker.’
Following the incident, president Ruto acknowledged failure of security agencies to avert the same and apologized to Kenyans in a televised address.
He later moved to reign in rogue preachers and pastors and set up a taskforce to oversee operations of the church in Kenya and draft regulatory guidelines to stem off such cultic doctrines.
In matters education, Ruto pledged to introduce a one to two-year paid National Internship Program for all students graduating from learning institutions through a collaboration scheme with the private sector. He also pledged to establish a National Education Fund to mobilize grants, bursaries, and scholarships from private and public sponsors to cater for non-tuition costs.
“To bridge the current higher education funding gap of up to 45 per cent, Kenya Kwanza government will establish National Skill and Funding Council that amalgamate HELB, TVET, and University Funding Board. This will immediately double the current Higher Education Loans Board funding from 11 billion to 22 billion and make the HELB loan interest-free.” A Ruto-initiated education charter read.
Despite president Ruto forming the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms which submitted the report to him last week with a myriad of recommendations, it is yet to yield desired results.
Some of the recommendations in the report include a reduction of learning areas in Lower Primary from 9 to 7, 12 to 8 in Upper Primary, 14 to 9 in Junior Schools, Pre-Primary to 5 and Senior Schools 7.
The committee also directed the school capitation to be increased by Sh1,170 for Pre-Primary, Double capitation to Sh2,238 for Primary level, Junior Schools Sh15,043 and Sh22,527 for Senior Schools (Day). Others include Sh19,800 for Special Needs Institutions (SNE), (Day) and Sh38,280 for SNE (Boarding). They also recommended that the capitation and grants be reviewed every three years.
The committee also want the Ministry to adopt a Comprehensive School system (PP1- Grade 9) comprising Pre-Primary, Primary school and Junior School managed as one institution.
They also recommended dropping the term “Secondary” from Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools.
On the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) the president is on record saying it is his biggest achievement in the education sector adding that the reforms are critical in building human capital.
“I told Kenyans that we will solve the confusion in the education system. I remember that CBC had confused a lot of people with many parents and guardians being hopeless but the taskforce has made good reforms.” He said.
To be able to achieve its obligations to the people of Kenya, the government of William Ruto said it would source for additional funding, which meant proposing a raft of measures to rake in more revenue from Kenyans.
This gave birth to the Finance Bill 2023 which sought to amend various laws relating to taxes and duties with the goal of increasing government revenues from taxes collected.
The mere proposal of the Finance Bill 2023 caused uproar from Wanjiku (ordinary citizens) who saw the tax increment move as punitive in an already battered economy.
Amid a tug-of-war between government and opponents of the proposed Bill, coupled with severe criticism from the opposition Azimio, eventually parliament passed it upon scrutiny amid intense lobbying from both sides, leaving the president with no option other than to assent to it.
This sparked countrywide deadly street protests staged by Raila Odinga and Azimio leadership who said the move was akin to “stealing from poor Kenyans” already bogged down by rising cost of living.
The ugly protests claimed lives and left many more maimed including security officers and journalists, drawing the attention of the international community and other interested groups who came out to agitate for constructive dialogue.
The Finance Act 2023 in its entirety is now law and is being implemented, with employees already feeling the pinch.