By David Wanjala
The 2016/17 Budget read in Parliament last month dubbed ‘Consolidating Gains for a prosperous Kenya’ proposes an estimated expenditure of Sh2.264 trillion, up from Sh1.842 trillion in 2015/16. With current revenue collection at Sh1.5 trillion, the budget is left with a gap worth of nearly Sh800 billion, which Treasury proposes to cushion by both external and internal lenders. The Government intends to borrow Sh413 billion, 5% of GDP, externally and locally through local treasury bills and bonds in the money markets.
Naturally, the tax base has been widened, and with it, more burden to citizens. Treasury CS, Henry Rotich said he was guided by the need to increase the consumable spending in the middle and low-income class in order to spur growth, adding that for that to happen Kenya must; improve business environment – lower cost of doing business, improve competitiveness and attract investment; safeguard macroeconomic stability; invest in security; improve infrastructure; and drive agricultural and industrial transformation.
The other measures included prioritizing investment in quality and accessible healthcare and relevant education; ensuring adequate support for the most vulnerable in society; supporting Devolution through funding; and implementing economic and financial reforms to boost productivity and competitiveness.
Sad however, is the fact that Treasury does not come out to strongly condemn, live alone outlining measures to tame corruption and sleaze among government institutions and individuals. The only close Rotich came to mentioning the vice, through which government loses billions of shillings failing to achieve its development goals and achieving a few at inflated costs is when, under supporting Devolution, he pledged to work closely with County Governments “to build public financial management capacity to help them to better deliver services.”
For a system that has systematically pilfered budgets in billions of shillings, one would expect some tough talking and an outline of how to recover the same from culpable individuals in County Governments, not a slap on the wrist.
Equally, there should be stated ways on how to tame the National Government from runaway expenditures. While President Kenyatta outlined strict austerity measures while CS Treasury under the previous regime, he went silent on the same when he became President, signaling the return to fuel guzzlers and other avoidable expenditures for government mandarins. His own office has broken record of expenditure on foreign trips.
If this sleaziness at both levels of government were to be reined in, Treasury would not have to push KRA hard to attain targets. Tax base expansion is not the only way to grow revenue; austerity measures and tough war on corruption can achieve the same, with less pain to the masses.