ODM leader Raila Odinga has revealed how he would implement the promised Sh6,000 monthly stipend if elected president, calling it the “biggest social welfare programme in Africa”.
Raila said on Wednesday said the initiative, to be rolled out as a direct cash transfer programme, will be given out monthly to two million of the poorest households.
He addressed a press conference at the University of Nairobi.
Flanked by a think tank of experts and university dons, Raila said the programme will reach about eight million poor Kenyans, based on the average household size of four people.
The programme will integrate the current social protection programme, such as Inua Jamii, which Raila stated already consumes Sh37 billion annually.
“We would add about Sh100 billion to this and expand it to include the poorest of the poor. And nobody should lie to Kenyans that taxes would have to rise for this to be realised, far from it,” Raila said.
The ODM leader said ministries would be subjected to a 25 per cent budget cut followed by wider rationalisation aimed at transferring government services to the poor.
“We believe the time has come for a government that spends on its people and not on expensive trips, per diems, mandazis in offices, and inflated tenders,” he said.
“The lax attitude towards public funds in this country has created a fertile environment for corruption and outright theft—stealing from the people.”
Raila spoke after a series of rallies in Nairobi, making several stops to urge residents to register as voters to propel his State House bid.
The cash transfers, Raila said, will not be ends in themselves.
“They will run hand in hand with investment in long-term measures to create jobs, reduce the cost of living and secure businesses, among other needs. We will be disclosing those measures in due course,” he said.
In his address, Raila also promised what he termed an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that would not only save money but also yield additional resources to protect the poor.
“The figures may vary. But we are in agreement that the government is losing billions of shillings every year,” he said.
“We have been told Kenya is losing a third of its budget—the equivalent of about $6 billion or Sh600 billion—to corruption every year. We have also been told the country loses Sh2 billion every day.”
The policy decision that has triggered a flurry of reaction came after Raila met with his think tank in Naivasha over the weekend.
The team includes UoN don Prof Peter Wanyande.
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi told the Star they would scale down project targets to release more cash into the pockets of citizens.
For instance, plans for building 5,000 kilometres of roads would be scaled down to say 3,000 kilometres or 4,000 kilometres.
“We have a Sh3 trillion budget. We have managed with Sh1 trillion. It is about choices. We can use the savings to support the population,” the governor said.
ODM chairman John Mbadi said the programme has been well-thought-out.
“We will end wastage by the government and channel the savings to the social welfare system,” Mbadi said.
He said there will be a system of welfare committees to identify those who deserve the stipend.
“The beneficiaries must be from a poor background. We are talking of people who have no other means of survival,” Mbadi said.
During his stops in Nairobi, Raila told crowds that he will prove his critics wrong.
“To those dismissing me, I will show them that it is possible. We will do it after the election. That is why I am here to ask for your support,” the ODM chief said.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows that 39 per cent of young people eligible for work are unemployed.
The youthful population is targeted by the political bigwigs battling it out to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Deputy President William Ruto, for his part, had said he would take Sh29 billion to boost businesses at the grassroots in the bottom-up approach.
In a meeting with aspirants on Wednesday, Ruto said the trickle-down concept would only benefit a few people.
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi equally poured scorn on the plan as unsustainable, casting doubts on how it would be funded.
“Donors will not come in to fund such a programme. Where are you going to get this extra money that is supposedly free?” he asked.
But Raila team holds that the more people have disposable income, the higher their purchasing power.
“When you give more money, you are creating a demand-driven economy,” Mbadi said.
He added that when everybody will be buying manufactured goods and other products, they will generate more taxes, hence create more jobs.
Muriithi dismissed assertions that Kenya’s fiscal space is squeezed, saying all that matters is what choices the government makes.
He said that since markets are imperfect, some members of society are always left out “even when the economy is moving forward properly”.
“They are left out for one reason or another. It could be a disability, age, or in a corner of the country with depressed economic activity,” the county chief said.
“It is common practice in forward-looking economies to support the segment of society that is vulnerable.”
Budget expert Dr Abraham Rugo said the programme may not be sustainable owing to its massive budget need and risks creating dependency.
The IBP-Kenya country director said the issue is not about the amount but the opaque manner in which such a programme can be managed.
“The priority should be to create an environment for businesses to employ more people so that you have fewer people dependent on the state,” Dr Rugo said.
But experts working on the idea hold that “there are many Kenyans who sleep without food, who lack a roof over their shoulders, and have no access to healthcare.”
By The Star