President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday pleaded with Parliament to help anchor his second term’s economic agenda with speedy passage of the legislation that is needed to roll out its pillars commonly known as the ‘Big Four’.
Mr Kenyatta said the dream of transforming Kenya riding on the Big Four agenda that includes Universal Healthcare, Manufacturing, Affordable Housing and Food Security, would only come true with concerted action aimed at eliminating the numerous barriers on the path of execution.
“This dream (Big Four) is going to become a reality if we all join hands to eliminate the barriers to its realisation, through legislation and new policies to incentivize the private sector,” the President said, adding that Kenyans want their families kept safe from catastrophic medicare bills, quality jobs, especially in manufacturing, food security and dignified, affordable homes.
“The Big Four Agenda serves each of these,” Mr Kenyatta said as he promised to return to Parliament to seek MPs’ support in passing legislation needed to roll out the plan.
“This will make us have clear roles in the development agenda,” he said.
By providing affordable universal healthcare, he said, the government will, quite simply, save lives.
“Already, extensive work has been done to bring access to quality and affordable health services. We have increased the number of health facilities from 9,000 in 2013 to 11,000 in 2017. The NHIF coverage widened from a membership of 3.8 million in 2013 to 7.2 million currently,” he said.
Besides, Mr Kenyatta said the government has expanded NHIF coverage for expectant mothers and raised the number of deliveries by skilled attendants from 44 per cent in 2013 to 66 per cent in 2017.
The President said various health intervention programmes, including the mosquito net programme, had helped Kenya improve key health indicators including incidence of malaria, which dropped from 11 per cent to eight per cent, infant mortality, that fell from 52 per 1,000 to 39 per 1,000 live births, under five years mortality which came down from 74 per 1,000 to 52 per 1,000.
“Maternal mortality dropped from 488 per 100,000 to 362 per 100,000 and medical needs of older persons and persons with disability addressed through extension of NHIF coverage to 42,000,” he said.
On food security, Mr Kenyatta said the government had taken steps to help Kenyans impacted by prolonged drought that had hit the country last year.
“The Hunger Safety Net Programme is cushioning Kenyans against hunger. Through it, cash was transferred to vulnerable households in arid and semi-arid areas giving them the choice of where and how to spend the stipend,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta said demand for decent homes far outstrips supply, particularly in the low-cost and affordable segment, making it an important area of action during his second term in office.
“A decent roof over one’s head is the most tangible symbol of a decent life, and it should be a critical part of a family’s wealth,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta said the new housing programme has been designed to incorporate the private sector so as to properly respond to the demand.
“We expect hundreds of thousands of affordable new homes to follow across the country, accompanied by a surge in jobs and incomes,” he said.
The President said his desire is to see owning a decent home get within reach of every Kenyan of median and modest income.
Mr Kenyatta made the address to the nation from Parliament in a joint sitting that comes after his handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The two leaders agreed to preach peace and work towards national healing after a divisive General Election last year that earned Mr Kenyatta his second term in office.