High cost of living to headline Ruto Cabinet meeting

President William Ruto and cabinet

President William Ruto chairs a Cabinet meeting with Cabinet Secretaries at State House, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: PCS

President William Ruto will on Thursday lead his entire Cabinet and other senior civil servants to a three-day retreat in Nanyuki to assess his 100 days at the helm amid immense pressure to fulfil election promises.

The meeting at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club will bring together Cabinet and principal secretaries alongside a retinue of advisors in Dr Ruto’s administration, such as Dr David Ndii (Council of Economic Advisers), Dr Kamau Thugge (Fiscal Affairs and Budget Policy), and Dr Augustine Cheruiyot (Economic Transformation Secretariat).

Multiple interviews with CSs and PSs revealed that the retreat will focus on finding a formula to arrest the high cost of living.

“The President wants to align his team on what to do for Kenyans. He is very much worried about the high rate of poverty in the country,” said one of the CSs.

The CS added: “He wants everyone to play a personal role geared towards the well-being of Kenyans and he has been saying that he has given us an opportunity to change livelihoods so that, in the next 15 to 30 years, our children and grandchildren should not go through what people are going through now.”

The Nation has also established that the CSs and PSs will be under tight schedules that will be running from 7am to 5pm daily with the members of the advisory council led by Dr Ndii taking them through the Kenya Kwanza manifesto one by one, establishing gaps and what needs to be turned around quickly.

During the retreat, each ministry is expected to outline its agenda for the year and how they plan to deliver them at a time when President Ruto has come under sharp criticism from the Raila Odinga-led Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party for giving Kenyans a raw deal in his 100 days in office.

Besides the cost of living and its knock-on effects, other top issues for the government is the transition to junior secondary school, which will be hosted in primary schools.

The headache is on how fast to get the 30,000 teachers to handle the classes, as well as the headache of the absence of laboratories for use in the science experiments Grade Seven learners are expected to tackle.

The second headache for the government, and a key campaign promise, is the welfare of the police officers, with a task force led by former Chief Justice David Maraga out to recommend terms. The government is also facing criticism over rising cases of banditry, with the latest being the death of two girls on New Year’s Day in Elgeyo Marakwet.

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki is expected to visit the county today.

The government is also facing criticisms over its lack of a collective responsibility approach, with CSs having been recently reprimanded by the Head of State over conflicting statements on key public issues.

The CSs, PSs and top government officials will arrive tomorrow evening as the retreat begins on Thursday officially. State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed yesterday confirmed that the retreat will feature the senior ranks of the executive.

“The retreat between January 5 and January 8 will crystallise the implementation programme of the administration’s plan for 2023,” said Mr Mohamed. Some of the other issues which are set to come up during the retreat are increasing annual revenue collection to Sh3 trillion, the National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund and distribution of subsidized fertiliser to achieve food security.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u is the man charged with reviving Kenya’s dwindling economic fortunes and arresting the rising public debt. President Ruto has disclosed that he will go slow on rolling out capital-intensive projects to curb borrowing.

For Energy and Petroleum CS Davis Chirchir, the country is still relying on him to lower the cost of electricity and revamp the energy sector. President Ruto, who campaigned on the platform of uplifting the poor and lowering the cost of power and fuel, is relying on Mr Chirchir to turn around the situation and help him fulfil this pledge.

Kenya Kwanza promised traders a conducive operating environment and Trade CS Moses Kuria is now in charge of protecting Kenyan goods against dumping and subsidised imports and recommending countervailing measures while Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen has all eyes on him to complete a myriad of stalled projects in the country. Cooperatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development CS Simon Chelugui is now the man under focus after the launch of the Sh50 billion Hustler Fund, with President Ruto saying that Sh20 billion has been lent to Kenyans within a month.

Hustler Fund

With President Ruto having promised to increase the country’s food production, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi is at the centre of ensuring that farmers get subsidised fertilizer and quality seeds while his Health counterpart Susan Wafula is under pressure to deliver on universal health insurance to all Kenyans.

Since assuming office as the Head of State, President Ruto has chaired four Cabinet meetings.

Azimio boss Raila Odinga said recently that since Dr Ruto took charge, no clear plan or economic blueprint for today and the nation’s future has been tabled.

“These have been 100 days on the road to nowhere. Kenyans are worse off than they were during the campaigns when UDA promises flowed. Where Kenyans expected and deserved a massive stimulus package to bail them out of the devastating economic circumstances, they got hit with cancellation of the subsidies that had cushioned millions from the pain,” said Mr Odinga

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the situation has worsened since Dr Ruto took over and there is nothing to celebrate about.

“The sum total of all these is that life has become more unbearable. The cost of living has skyrocketed. Life has not become better. Ruto’s administration needs to up their game,” said Mr Wandayi yesterday.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni told the Nation that the Kenya Kwanza administration needs to explain why it has delayed in fulfilling its campaign promises.

“Inflation is up, fuel and food [prices] are all up. They have collected money from August to now hence there is nothing like they found empty coffers. Let them tell us what they have done. There is nothing the former President holds against his successor to bar him from delivering to Kenyans,” said Mr Kioni.

Playing to the gallery

Mr Kioni further claimed that the 100 days of the Kenya Kwanza administration show that President Ruto will be a one-term President because of playing to the gallery instead of working for Kenyans.

“This administration is full of talking without implementing anything. They are only remaining with four years for them to go home. Look, for instance, how the Jubilee administration dealt with illicit brew in Mt Kenya which used to kill people. Now, the consumption of such brews has gone up,” said Mr Kioni.

But former Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, who was once a fiercest critic of the President, said that delivering on key promises to the people who supported him during the electioneering period was one of the noticeable things Dr Ruto had done and must be commended.

He pointed out that, should Dr Ruto stay the course, he will be “an interesting President to watch in 2027 and everyone running against him then”, noting that he projects a man who does not turn back on his word.

“We have had a lot of people who have given political promises over the years since independence, and one of the things he has done right is fulfilling the promises he gave,” he said.