The 3.02 trillion budget read by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich on Thursday may be quite huge but it ignores the basic needs of the ordinary Kenyan and is unsustainable and burdensome.
An ideal budget should, above everything else, address the plight of the citizens first. Most Kenyans struggle to get basic needs. Most do not afford food and clothing. Others do not have access to housing. But the budget ignored these problems.
It did not endeavour to make the life of a Kenyan better. Kenyans expected reduction of prices of basic commodities. But the budget overlooked this.
Rotich said that, to reduce the huge public wage bill, the government will restrict hiring of workers — meaning unemployment is here to stay. — and aggravated joblessness by saying that no projects will be rolled out until the ongoing ones are completed.
The budget did not show how food security will be achieved, despite agriculture being one of the pillars of the much-touted ‘Big Four Agenda’.
The other three — universal health coverage, affordable housing and industrialisation boost — did not get good treatment either.
Rotich’s sentiment that the budget seeks to expedite the ‘Big Four’ rings hollow as it does not convince us how it will do that.
Kenya has no capacity to finance the budget, hence a Sh6.7 billion deficit. That will shoot the public debt into the Sh6 trillion realm as KRA milks Kenyans to the last drop to raise more than Sh1.8 trillion to plug the hole.
It is not bad to borrow, or to have a huge budget, but it is absurd to plan for money that you do not have and have no hope of getting.
KRA has ever fallen short of its revenue collection targets; how sure is the Treasury that the taxman now will?
As constituted, KRA is unlikely to deliver on its mandate; hence, an overhaul is necessary. Else, poor Kenyans will be overtaxed.
Tychicus Ogoti, via email
Despite the astronomical cost of living many Kenyans face, the government added a financial burden to the taxpayers in the 2019/2020 budget. For example, it intends to raise Sh2.1 trillion through taxes and services and internal and external borrowing.
Kenya’s external and internal debt has surpassed 50 per cent of GDP. Over the years, it has grappled with a budget deficit.
The glaring discrepancy between tax collection and revenue targets is no longer scintillating. Worse, to plug the deficit, it will have to borrow more than Sh600 billion.
Salaries and administration has been allocated Sh1.7 trillion. That means the government has become a consumer rather than a producer; the ‘Big Four Agenda’ could become a pipe dream.
Without mitigating runaway corruption, mismanagement of public funds and the lacklustre economic growth, the status quo will remain and public expenditure will overrun the budget. Let the officialdom wake up and smell the coffee.
Joseph G. Muthama, Kiambu