Numbers don’t lie: The two-faced legacy of 10 years of Jubilee
Roads: Of the many things President Uhuru Kenyatta will be remembered for, his love for investment in huge infrastructural projects will be top. In particular, President Kenyatta’s investment in expansion of the country’s road network will go down as one of his most successful legacies. Between 2013 and 2022, his government has spent Sh1.44 trillion on construction and maintenance of roads, constructing a total of 11,000 kilometres of new highways.
The President’s Delivery Unit (PDU), on its website, states that over 2,000km of inter-city highways are under construction and 500km of urban roads are under different stages of construction or procurement. In his last Madaraka Day speech, the President noted: “Today I am proud to record that if the third Kenyan administration (former President Mwai Kiabaki’s) built 2,000km of tarmac road, we accelerated this achievement by building over 11,000km, which is close to six times what they built.
In fact, truth be said, we have built more roads in nine years than what all previous administrations combined, including the British, built in 123 years.” In his first term of office, President Kenyatta spent Sh490 billion on roads, which he nearly doubled to Sh951 billion in his last term, with the last year in office having budgeted Sh195 billion for roads, including Sh94.7 billion for new roads and bridges.
Electricity: One of President Kenyatta’s flagship initiatives was the last-mile electricity connectivity programme that targeted supplying power to rural homesteads. Eight years later, his government has grown the population with access to electricity from 40 per cent in 2013 to 71.4 per cent by last year, according to World Bank data, making the programme one of the most successful from a supply perspective.
Last year, Kenya was ranked top in the world among countries that made the biggest strides in reducing the population with no access to electricity between 2010 and 2019 by the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and other bodies, with an average 5.6 per cent increase in electricity access annually over 10 years. The world average of increase in electricity access was 0.8 per cent. But the institutions, however, noted that Kenya was yet to draw socio-economic benefits from the increased electrification, with majority of users only using electricity for basic services, as opposed to economically viable usage.
Land: The Ministry of Lands’ issuance of six million title deeds to Kenyans during President Kenyatta’s reign will also go down as one of the fourth President’s legacy, with the titling programme having enabled millions of Kenyans to access ownership documents for their properties. Title deeds have an effect economically since they allow land owners to perform transactions such as borrowing using the documents as collateral or selling land parcels with ease. “From 2012 going back to our colonial governments before independence, they registered slightly less than six million titles. President Kenyatta, in nine years, has done 6.1 million titles,” says Lands CS Farida Karoney.
The Ministry is also currently in the process of uploading all the land information in Kenya on a digital platform that, if successful, could end the corruption that has held back Kenya’s land sector for decades and prevented investments worth billions of shillings.
Huduma Centres: Launched in November 2013, the Huduma Kenya Programme brought huge benefits to many citizens as it integrated key government services under one roof. The planned rollout of these centres countrywide has, however, been slowed down by budgetary constraints.
GDP and tax: Under President Kenyatta’s administration, Kenya’s economic productivity as measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has also more than doubled from Sh5.31 trillion in 2013, to Sh12.09 trillion by last year, according to Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data. This has happened alongside institutional reforms at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and strategic investments in modern equipment, resulting in a growth in tax revenues, after sealing loopholes previously abused by tax evaders. Reports from KRA and the Controller of Budget show that Kenya’s tax revenues grew from less than Sh900 billion in the financial year 2013/14 to Sh2.03 trillion in 2021/22.
(Sources: Government reports and industry analyses)
Public debt: One of President Kenyatta’s administration’s foremost criticisms has come from its insatiable borrowing appetite that has pushed Kenya into a debt trap. Public debt hit a record Sh8.56 trillion in May, making up about 67 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The debt burden has had a huge impact on government spending, with annual debt servicing costs hitting Sh1.17 trillion in the financial year 2021/22. But with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) managing to raise a record revenue of Sh2 trillion during the period, that means every Sh6 out of Sh10 collected by the taxman went to servicing debt, squeezing the development budget. To underline how heavily the Jubilee government has borrowed, Kenya’s debt stood at just Sh1.79 trillion in December 2012, just four months before President Kenyatta took over. The increase in public debt to a historic Sh8.56 trillion means he has borrowed Sh6.77 trillion more during his 10-year rule, an increase of more than 378 per cent. In contract, his predecessor Mwai Kibaki grew public debt by 184 per cent, having found it at Sh629 billion when he was elected in 2002 before finally leaving it at Sh1.79 trillion.
Corruption: President Uhuru Kenyatta has overseen an administration in which corruption is endemic and has been normalised. During the Jubilee administration, taxpayers have lost billions of shillings in a quick succession of mega corruption scandals, including the Eurobond, National Youth Service (NYS) I and II, the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), Arror and Kimwarer dams, and Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme scandals, to name a few. The first NYS scandal unfolded in 2015 when Sh791 million vanished from the Youth Empowerment Programme under the Ministry of Devolution.
In 2016, then Auditor-General Edward Ouko shocked the country when he revealed that Uhuru’s administration could not account for Sh215 billion that was part of a Eurobond issued by the State to fund mega infrastructure projects. The Head of State himself admitted in an interview last year that the country loses Sh2 billion to corruption daily, which translates to about Sh730 billion annually.
Public wage bill: In the financial year 2020/21, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) collected revenue amounting to Sh1.669 trillion, in a fiscal year in which the public wage bill hit Sh893 billion. This means that for every Sh10 that the tax agency collects, Sh5.3 goes towards paying salaries, wages and allowances for civil servants.
Public sector workers enjoy over 247 remunerative and facilitative allowances, up from 31 in 1999. These fat allowances often double the monthly pay of public servants and account for 48 per cent of the State’s annual wage bill. Within a span of just 10 years, the Jubilee government has grown the public wage bill by 95 per cent, from Sh458 billion in the FY2012/13 to Sh893 billion in FY2020/21. The amount is set to rise further when the numbers for the FY2021/22 are released.
Taxes: Under President Kenyatta’s tenure, Kenyans have been hit with heavy taxes as his government to squeeze more revenue from both individuals and businesses to fund the budget. One of the new taxes introduced by the Jubilee administration is the Railway Development Levy (RDL), charged at 1.5 per cent of imported goods. The levy was meant to raise money to build the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which made goods costlier as importers passed on the cost to consumers. President Kenyatta’s administration also oversaw the increase in the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) to Sh5.40 on each litre of petrol and diesel, up from Sh0.40 in 2020.
The State also imposed a Sh18 tax per litre of kerosene to reduce fuel adulteration. The levy saw the fuel, mainly used by poor households for cooking, get out of reach of many families who resorted to charcoal and firewood. Last year, the government also imposed a 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT on cooking gas, sending the prices of the commodities to their highest level in more than six years.
However, the State last month lowered the rate to 8 per cent leading to a slight reduction in cooking gas prices. Other products that have been targeted by President Kenyatta’s government for heavy taxation are alcohol, juices, cigarettes, water and gambling. The government has also imposed higher taxes on digital products to cash in on the growing digital commercial space, leading to an increase in the cost of digital services.