William Ruto's uphill task in reversing SGR deals, Jubilee policies

President-elect William Ruto making his address during the inaugural meeting with Kenya Kwanza leaders at his official residence in Karen on August 17, 2022. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

President-elect William Ruto faces an uphill task in reversing key policies of the exiting administration, including returning port operations of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to the coast and annulling the Dubai Port deals.

He will also be required to review the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) as part of his campaign promises, to address challenges identified by teachers and parents.

During campaigns, the Kenya Kwanza leader promised to reverse legal and administrative changes over the use of the SGR to shift operations back to Mombasa.

The coalition also raised issues over a deal signed with the Dubai port operator DP World to develop and operate various port components in Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu.

DP World has been angling for Mombasa port operation since 2015 but proposals have stalled due to politics over the sovereignty of the port and objections from labour unions in Mombasa that fear job and wage cuts.

Port union officials and logistics operators have been at loggerheads with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s policies including the SGR, blamed for shifting business and employment to inland depots in Nairobi and Naivasha.

The completion of the depots and commencement of freight services were expected to significantly support and provide anchorage, for the development of the proposed Naivasha Industrial Park.

The President-elect promised to return major operations shifted to Naivasha and Nairobi to the Coast to end the economic deprivation facing local communities.

“It was never the intention of the government to build the SGR so that the coastal people can be impoverished. The SGR was meant to make the port much more efficient and to improve the business and the fortunes of the Coastal people,” Dr Ruto said.

“Unfortunately, a few people took hostage the whole project and ended up with selfish programmes to the detriment of the coastal people.”

Ruto's pledge to reverse some of the Jubilee government policies is set to unsettle investors who had aligned with the policies of the outgoing government.

Kenya is obligated to honour repayment of the Sh327 billion it borrowed for the project from the Exim Bank of China in May 2014 and started repaying last year after the expiry of the five-year grace period.

Change of priorities by new administrations also tends to leave behind several white elephant projects accumulating pending bills, increasing variation costs and could expose Kenya to legal compensation claims by slighted contractors if cancelled.

The National Assembly budget committee said hundreds of development projects worth Sh9 trillion started during the Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta regimes have stalled.

Kenya Public Expenditure Review published by the World Bank showed Kenya had 4,000 ongoing projects many of which are significantly delayed, incomplete or stalled.

The Bank said 40 percent of the projects became white elephants during the transition to devolution with 195 irrigation projects initiated in the second term of President Mwai Kibaki, not being allocated funds by county governments.

About 53 projects are dormant because of diverse factors including litigation, wayleave challenges, acquisition of land, and funding suspension by the donors. Another reason that has stalled projects has been the imposition of budget ceilings by the Treasury keen on taming expenditure.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have asked the government to cancel some of the stalled projects in the wake of a cash crunch due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The incoming president has also hinted at going after firms that benefited from the Jubilee government administration policies accusing them of state capture.

Kenya Kwanza promised in its manifesto to launch a quasi-judicial public inquiry within 30 days to establish the extent of cronyism and State Capture in the nation and make recommendations.

The new President however downplayed animosities with his predecessor President Kenyatta saying his administration will give him respect and honour in his retirement.

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