RESPONSE BY THIRDWAY ALLIANCE KENYA TO PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS DELIVERED ON FRIDAY 14, 2018
We have studied the President’s speech delivered on Friday September 14, 2018 and we have identified two salient concerns that seem to worry him. First, the president is worried about the budget deficit, and he is also worried over the cost of our current over-representation. While we agree with the president that over-representation is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, we vehemently oppose imposition of the 8% VAT on petroleum product to ostensibly finance the budget deficit. In fact, 8% or even 1% VAT on petroleum products will not solve the challenges Kenyans are currently facing.
We welcome the idea of austerity measures proposed by the President. We insist that austerity measures be about cutting down costs in government, as we further suggest below. In addition, we challenge the president to lead by example.
We now advise the President, as we have always done before, that the government must urgently improve public financial management and to immediately rationalize the cost of running government. Immediately at the president’s disposal is the urgent need to restructure government operations and implement far-reaching cost-cutting measures. It is only the president can determine the size of his own government.
We now make the following eight (8) proposals to both the president and the political leadership as austerity measures to be applied immediately in order to save Kenyans from any further suffering:
SUPPORT THE PUNGUZA MIZIGO REFERENDUM AND CALL FOR FRESH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
We urge the president to immediately support the Punguza Mizigo campaign and ensure that a referendum is done within nine (9) months. The term of the current parliament must be terminated immediately to give members of the public a chance to elect new leaders that will cost less to maintain than the current ones. We agree with the President that overrepresentation is costly to Kenyans. Compared to some of the most populous countries like China (1.4 billion people with 1200 representatives), India (1.3 billion people with 800 representatives) and USA (350 million people with 535 representatives), Kenya with 46 million people and with 416 representatives means that we are over 400% represented. Therefore, our current parliament is costing us KES 36.8 billion in current financial year 2018/19. Parliamentarian increased their budget by KES 12 billion in this financial year while denying such other independent organs like the Judiciary the requisite budget it needs to fight corruption cases. As an austerity measure that is now clearly being supported by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Punguza Mizigo referendum proposes to cut down the cost of representation from KES 36.8 Billion to KES 5 billion per year. This will only happen when we reduce our current representatives from 416 to only 194 for both Senate and National Assembly. With a saving of KES 31.8 billion, we would also be able to hold fresh elections with a cost of KES 2 billion. This would be a doable and implementable austerity measure. We ask the Jubilee administration and the president in particular to work with Thirdway Alliance Kenya on this proposal because it is of great benefit to the people of Kenya including his own current administration.
ABOLISH THE FOLLOWING OFFICES CREATED BY THE JUBILEE ADMINSTRATION
As part of austerity measures to cut down on cost of running government, the following offices besides being unconstitutional, serve no meaningful purposes; instead they continue to expend billions of tax payers’ money with no value at all to Kenyans. We, therefore, urge the president to be as bold as he has recently been in fighting corruption to immediately disband the following offices:
- Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) positions. This office was in the first place created against the clear provisions of the Constitution. (See our memorandum to the National Assembly dated January 6, 2018)
- County and regional commissioner’s positions.In the language of the Constitution, the Provincial Administration was not meant to be rebranded into County & regional Commissioners. It was to be disbanded to give full effect to devolution. In the spirit of austerity measures, Kenyans do not need these offices with fully functional devolved units. We urge the president to do away with these offices to save money that could see him achieve his Big 4 agenda.
- Building bridges task force. A careful examination of the terms of reference of what the task force intends to do leads to the conclusion that the task force will achieve nothing new except perhaps to expend billions of Kenya shillings we do not currently have.
We estimate that applying austerity measures by abolishing the above offices, will save the public, at least, a total of KES 5 Billion per annum
DRASTICALLY REDUCE FOREIGN MISSIONS
Once again and in the spirit of cutting down costs, our country does not get value for billions of Kenya shillings spent in running most of our 55 foreign missions. We don’t even need all of them. We, therefore, propose that the number of foreign missions be reduced by half and instead the president should appoint honorary consuls in most of those countries, as a cheaper option to the 55 foreign missions. For example, we do not need a foreign mission in china, as we are only their buying trade partner. There is no mutual benefit. We contend that we should maintain foreign missions in countries that we have symbiotic trade relationships and close all missions in countries that are not buying from Kenya. A mission abroad should be a market for our goods and services. Currently, few if any, even buy from us. On average foreign mission costs Kenyans an estimated KES 200 million per year and we cannot continue maintaining foreign missions that do not add value to the lives of Kenyans. We shall, therefore, raise KES 5.4 Billion by closing 27 un-strategic foreign missions.
DISPOSE OFF THE PRESIDENTIAL JET
We urge the President to immediately order disposal of the presidential jet. The president can be using our own Pride of Africa, the Kenya Airways on all international travels as he recently did on his two trips to China and the USA. We urge the President to lead by example in cutting costs.
REDUCE SALARIES AND ABOLISH LUXURIOUS BENEFITS
We propose to the President and his administration to begin the process of reducing salaries of the executive, parliamentarians and senior government officials and retire those that will not fit in the new arrangement. If any public servant insists on huge salaries, the corporate world is open for them.
We more specifically propose that salaries for all elected officials to be restricted to a ceiling of KES 500,000 with the president earning this as his maximum salary inclusive of all allowances. We contend that members of parliament must earn an all inclusive salary of not more than KES 300,000. Serving in the public service should not be an opportunity for enrichment. Instead, it should be serve to the public. Elective political jobs are voluntary whose pay must not be used to enrich a few individuals at the expense of public interest. MPs who believe that they can earn more elsewhere can be excused to go and pursue their financial interest in the commercial and corporate sector.
RESTRUCTURE OTHER RECURRENT EXPENDITURE
In this regard, we make the following four (4) proposals to the President:
- Restrict spending on government seminars and meetings. In fact, abolish government meetings in hotels. Ministries and departments of government must now use their boardrooms.
- Reduce the number of Principal secretaries from the current 31 to 21. Some of the currently PSs could simply be replaced by Directors in charge of some dockets in Ministries that have more than one PSs.
- Restrict foreign travel for all MPs and other state officers. This alone will save Kenyans more than KES 6 billion per year. In fact, following the shoddy report of parliamentarians that attended the World Cup, the President should ask Parliamentary Service Commission to surcharge all those MPs/Senators who travelled to Moscow to allegedly benchmark on how to host an international event. Kenyans lost millions of Kenya shillings from that unwarranted trip.
D.Immediately dispose of all the luxurious government vehicles and lease or acquire motor vehicles with 1500 cc. Restrict use of government vehicles to official duties only. Public and state officers can use own or public transport to and from work and also for private errands. and consequently saving over of KES 10 billion annually.
RESTRUCTURE THE NATIONAL DEBT
It is our proposal to the President that he immediately beings the to renegotiate repayment terms of all long-term loans and reduce the annual repayments to not more than KES 500 billion from the current over KES 800 billion per year. The government must engage bilateral lenders with an intention of elongating the loan repayment periods to diffuse the current budget gap pressure. This will immediately release over KES 350 billion that can be redirected to development expenditure instead of financing new projects with proceeds of new loans. There is no country in the world that develops by simply borrowing. We are largely a consumer economy; we need to begin to produce instead. Only this way will we begin to develop.
RECOVER PUBLIC FUNDS LOOTED FROM 2013 TO DATE AMOUNTING TO OVER KES 647 BILLION
It is our proposal to President Kenyatta that he must now and with the gusto he has since shown in fighting corruption, closely work with the office of the Auditor General in order to recover stolen money already documented by the Auditor. Rather than punish “weary Kenyans” as the president himself admitted, why not recover stolen money from among others, your own cabinet secretaries, Permanent Secretaries, Director of Parastatals, governors, members of parliament amongst others?
From the above proposals, it is now evident that the proposed 8% VAT on petroleum and related products is unnecessary and the government must adopt stringent financial discipline to shield Kenyans from high cost of living
It is also apparent to us that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration is calling for help from ordinary Kenyans. This is because our elected representatives have failed to support the government; for example, why should members of Parliament still hold onto the CDF kitty when they know too well that it is unconstitutional and serves no purpose? Why should parliamentarians who passed the same draconian law now pretend to want to reject it? This is clearly a question of bad governance and the failure to fully follow the constitution. It was parliament that passed the appropriation bill and now this Financial Bill 2018; they ought to have debated the sources of money. Furthermore, it was the two dominant and loud coalitions that passed this oppressive law. We ask them to fix it by simply amending it as proposed by our party, Thirdway Alliance Kenya.