Raila vows to curb Kenya's rising debt if elected President
ODM leader Raila Odinga has pledged to address concerns surrounding Kenya’s current debt portfolio, which he says is negatively affecting economic growth, should he emerge victorious at the August polls.
According to Odinga, who was speaking at Chatham House in London on Wednesday, Kenya’s burgeoning debt has aggravated poverty and stalled local economic development as such the issue should be addressed quickly to prevent the country from falling into a fiscal abyss.
“Kenya is now approaching US $100 billion (Ksh.10 trillion) in public debt. This puts Kenya in the group of “the most debt-stressed” middle and lower-income developing countries now being forced into IMF credit and IMF supervised austerity programs,” Odinga said in his address.
Such austerity programs, Odinga added are more often than not implemented with the sole interest of satisfying debt repayment at the expense of the livelihoods of Kenyans.
“We have no choice in the matter. We will have to seek the indulgence and cooperation of our development partners to renegotiate our debt. I will also audit our debt to establish its actual size,” said the former premier.
Odinga partly attributed the country’s debt to corruption and kleptocracy, pointing out that his government will strive to ensure that Kenya does not default on debt repayment.
“Gross Public Debt increased from 44.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010 to 69% of the GDP at the end of 2020, reflecting high deficits, explained by the financing of infrastructure projects whose costs are quite often inflated due to bureaucratic corruption,” he said.
“We will mount a serious war on corruption. Corruption as it manifests today is a global phenomenon. In future, we will strive to borrow at a favorable interest rate, negotiate repayment periods that are not stressful, and invest in enterprises that give good social and economic returns.”
He likewise stated that his government will augment devolution budget for counties to 35 percent up from 15 percent underscoring that “a central government does best when it governs least at the local level.”
The former premier also reiterated the importance of multilateralism citing that the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global economy had highlighted the significance of having working relations among different states.
“We saw the need for multilateralism when COVID struck. The real scandal about the global response to Covid-19 has been vaccine inequity, or what has been called vaccine apartheid. Because of the international outcry, these inequities are now being addressed,” he said.
“However, we need a more structural solution to vaccine inequity to avoid the recurrence of what has happened with Covid.”
Odinga similarly promised to increase agricultural productivity in the country by providing inputs to small holders in addition to farm subsidies to farmers to enable them produce for consumption and export.
The ODM leader likewise stated that he will prioritize an export-minded industrialization policy that will allow the private sector to drive the export agenda.
As the African Union High Representative, Odinga likewise highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure development in the region underscoring that such projects will promote trade, development and prosperity across the continent.
In this regard, the former premier lauded the East African Community for expanding its membership in order to augment bilateral relations among member states noting that his government will continue in the same direction.
Odinga also chimed in on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine citing that Kenya stands to lose approximately Ksh. 10 billion worth of exports to Russia owing to sanctions imposed on the Vladimir Putin-led nation by the west.
He consequently urged the two nations to find an amicable solution that will address the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.
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