Friday, June 12, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
June 11, 2009

Give it to him; Uhuru Kenyatta had his moment of glory in Parliament. He presented a unique budget that was as different as no other since independence. More importantly, he confounded both foe and friend with the kind of budget that caught many speculators with their pants down.

To tell you how effective Uhuru was in Parliament, there were very few snoring honorable waheshimiwas in the august house; if any he gave Speaker Kenneth Marende a hectic time trying to minimize loud “consultations” among honorable members. What was obvious was that the less intellectually endowed MPs had to keep up with Uhuru by “consulting” their colleagues on the imports of various contents of the budget Uhuru was reading.

Personally, Uhuru Kenyatta made me very proud as a Kenyan by reading a budget that was very responsive to our circumstances in Kenya today. Nothing pleased me more than seeing Uhuru throwing a challenge to us Kenyans to create 220 “Alliance High Schools” all over the republic. That was my understanding of creating schools of excellence in every constituency. What Uhuru has done with this move is to create a level playing ground by saying that in four years time, every constituency will have an equal chance of sending as many students to our public universities as Alliance, Starehe, Mangu or Maseno High School.

The other area that Uhuru’s budget excelled in was on infrastructure. To pump Ks 140 billion into this sector was spot on. If we can revamp our roads, rail lines and communication systems, movement will be faster and cheaper; a move that will surely spur our economy. This move reminded me of Barack Obama’s similar move in America when he created thousands of jobs in the infrastructure in America through expansion of new roads, bridges and any infrastructure that could put money into the pockets of ordinary people.

If we can have an electric train moving from Mombasa to Kampala on a daily basis, local tourism in the region will get a boost as accidents on our roads will fall. I’ll be happy to ride in this train to Mombasa, Kampala and Kisumu rather than fly or drive.

However, the biggest political scoop that Uhuru unleashed on the political class was his devolution of government as we know it today. Remember that one of the reasons the Bomas constitution failed to see the light of day was the contentious devolution of government resources to the regions which at that time nobody really knew how many they were. In Uhuru’s 2009 budget, he decentralized more funds to the constituencies than what the MPs could have imagined.

Effective this year, no MP will come to Parliament to complain about the funding of roads, healthcare, schools, electricity and market centers. All these funds have been decentralized to the constituency and therefore it will be up to the MP to ensure that infrastructure and other development requirements are implemented on time.

This move on constituency funds by Uhuru has put political heavy weights in a quagmire. The move will definitely remove the item from the constitutional reform agenda.

So, if Uhuru actually succeeds in getting all these good promises off the ground during this life of parliament, will he have outsmarted his opponents come the 2012 elections? Will he take credit for the success of his first budget? I should think so because he has done what no other Finance Minister has ever done in living memory in this country.

However, there was one little matter that Uhuru didn’t seem to have paid attention to.

I expected to hear something more bold and decisive about the annoying Nairobi traffic. I wanted to hear of plans to ban Citi Hoppa, KBS and all those other annoying public transport vehicles driven by hooligans in the Central Business District. I wanted to hear that all those taxis that have taken 80% of parking lots would with immediate effect be banned from parking in the City Center and that they would from hence forth be plying the city streets the way their counterparts in London, Abidjan and Accra do. No, I didn’t hear the good news on this front. May be the Finance Minister should turn his wrath on them as well.

Why on earth did Uhuru give more money to the Youth and Women funds? Have they exhausted the billions of shillings that they have been receiving in the last two years? Is the scheme really working or some strategic bank is busy fleecing the youth and women?

Why did he give money to fishing ponds and jua kali tools? Who will man these ponds and ensure these jua kali tools are not privatized and sold off to relatives and kinsmen by gatekeepers? In these hard times, fishing ponds, jua kali sheds, jewellery and beauty creams should have been left out while smokers and drunkards should have been punished for their sins.