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Economists welcome Henry Rotich’s pro-poor budget

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (left) with CS Devolution Mwangi Kiunjuri and Majority Leader Aden Duale at Parliament Buildings to present 2017/2018 Budget. [Moses Omusula, Standard]

Economists have welcomed the Government’s plan to give a monthly stipend and free medical cover to people aged over 70 from January 2018.

The senior citizens will receive about Sh2,000 a month in what is expected to cost about Sh9.7 billion. Institute of Economic Affairs—Kenya Chief Executive Kwame Owino said it is estimated that about a million Kenyans are aged over 70 as per 2009 census figures.

“In my view this and the general coverage of NHIF for this age group is something that will mitigate the economic challenges facing such a group and reduce health burden for them,” Owino said. The pro-poor budget also seeks to reverse the soaring cost of food occasioned by prolonged drought and maintained caution on putting the struggling economy on a recovery path.

Owino said zero-rating of white maize imports will help cut the high cost of maize—a basic staple for most households in Kenya. However, he warned that due to middlemen, the benefits could fail to trickle down to the final consumer.

He also praised the move to raise the minimum taxable income to Sh13,495 from Sh11,135, a move that could see the take-home pay slightly improve.

Mr Ndindi Nyoro of Investax Capital lauded the Sh300 million set aside for rehabilitation of street children and families. “We have all been complaining about the street children menace but none of us individually could fix the problem,” he said. Mr Nyoro is also happy with the improved allocation for the Youth Fund (Sh600 million), Women Fund (Sh800 million) and Uwezo Fund (Sh700 million). He said the latter has been a great pillar to economic empowerment.

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“The beauty about this fund is that women group members become their own collateral, encouraging and checking each other. The results have been encouraging,” he observed.

Policy and Governance expert Vincent Kimosop lauded the Government move to increase tax on gambling to 50 per cent especially the fact that the proceeds will go into an endowment fund. Both Kwame and Kimosop agree that this will reduce the rate of gambling especially among the youth and have them engaged in more productive activities.

Director General, Budget, Fiscal & Economic Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Mwau said the amount set aside for irrigation to cover 27,000 hectares of land is step in the right direction to provide food security for all. “We have diversified from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation and this will in the long run assure Kenyans of food security as we aim at surplus food production,” he said this after the Government allocated Sh6.3 billion for irrigation.

Mr Mwau says the funds set aside for leasing of health equipment (Sh4.1 billion) will see the cost of treating lifestyle diseases such as cancer and diabetes go down. He also said the Government will work with mission hospitals.

“If a government hospital is some 20 km away and a mission one is 5 km away, there is going to be some arrangement that an expectant woman delivers at the nearby mission hospital and the Government foots the bill,” he added.

During the budget, Rotich allocated Sh134.9 billion for roads construction and another 10 billion for Lapsset project as well as Sh75.2 billion for the SGR and Sh400 million for compensating people to be relocated. 

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