President Ruto drops over 3,000km of Uhuru roads

Thika-Kenol-Marua highway

Ongoing construction of the Thika-Kenol-Marua highway in October last year.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto dropped over 3,000 kilometres of roads that former President Uhuru Kenyatta planned to build during the current financial year, indicating a new course for the new administration away from its predecessor’s priorities.

This comes against the backdrop of a Sh47.3 billion budget cut on the government’s infrastructural projects during the financial year to June 2023, 99 per cent of which affects the construction of roads.

The government, in the mini-budget published in January, proposes to drop the construction of at least 1,089km of roads across different parts of the country, while 2,304km that had been lined up for rehabilitation and maintenance in the financial year to June, will also be shelved.

Among key roads that had been planned for construction but have now been largely scaled down include the dualling of the Thika-Kenol-Marua road, the construction of Arusha-Holili-Voi road and the construction of the Mau Mau Road.

Thika-Kenol-Marua road

In the original 2022/2023 budget, Mr Kenyatta’s last in office, his government planned the dualling of the 27km Thika-Kenol-Marua road, which has been scaled down to 6.5km only in the new budget proposals before parliament.

The previous administration also planned construction of the 49km Mau Mau Road, but in the supplementary budget, this has been brought down to 13km.

Another key road to suffer President Ruto’s budget cut is the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project, a key road that is expected to link Kenya with Somalia and Ethiopia and boost trade among the three countries.

The previous administration planned to build at least 98km of the road in the financial year to June, but the National Treasury reduced this by 68km. Construction of the Kisumu-Miwani-Chemelil-Muhoroni road has been reduced from the originally planned 20km to 5km, while the planned 80km Lokichar Amosing Road will be scaled down by over 93 per cent to just five kilometres. Ngong Road footbridges, which would be 70 per cent complete by June as per the 2022/23 original budget, will also take much longer after Treasury scaled-down work on them targeting to achieve just 18 per cent in the current financial year.

Supplementary Budget

Treasury in the Supplementary Budget One of 2022/23 cut the total budget to the State Department for Infrastructure from Sh221.3 billion to Sh174 billion. Attributing the cuts to budget rationalisation, about 99 per cent of the Treasury’s cut on the funding for road infrastructure projects was on the development side, whose budget was reduced by Sh47.1 billion.

 “Following the adjustments the National Treasury has made to the votes and programmes, some programmes have exceeded the 10 per cent threshold. The National Treasury is in this regard, requesting special approval of the expenditure adjustments which are beyond the 10 per cent threshold,” said Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u.

The Treasury cut the infrastructure budget by 21.4 per cent. Mr Ken Gichinga, Chief Economist at Mentoria Economics, observes that, while the government’s fiscal consolidation objective is laudable, the budget cuts on roads will lower economic output, particularly when roads connecting to markets are affected.

The government, Mr Gichinga argues, must balance its need to cut spending with effects on economic output.