National Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Henry Kiprono Rotich was the centre of attention on Thursday as he presented a Sh2.6 trillion budget.
Mr Rotich, who is among the first crop of CSs hired outside Parliament as required by the Constitution, is also the longest-serving in this office since Musalia Mudavadi left it in 1997. Others have taken about three years, and some just a few months.
The 48-year-old technocrat has survived two major reshuffles in the Jubilee administration that have seen some of his 2013 team-mates quit or moved to different ministries.
Mr Rotich qualified to join the University of Nairobi for Bachelor’s degrees in economics and graduated with a first-class honours. Before then, he schooled in Keiyo South District where he was a top student. He would later attain a master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University in the United States.
His career has been long and distinguished. He worked at the research department of the Central Bank of Kenya from 1994 and was later attached to the International Monetary Fund’s office in Nairobi as an economist.
In March 2006, he joined the Ministry of Finance as head of macroeconomics, where he was involved in formulation of policies aimed at achieving the government’s priorities.
The role made him a good candidate for his current position as he was also involved in preparation of key budget documents, including Budget Policy Statements, and in providing strategic coordination of structural reforms in the fiscal and financial sector.
But his long stay at the helm of the National Treasury has not been quiet. The soft-spoken CS has had to defend the government’s ballooning debt, wage bill and the Eurobond billions.
He has also been at pains balancing between heavily taxing the common man and sinking the country deeper into debt as the government targets to complete major infrastructure projects – mainly roads, railway and energy.
During his vetting in 2013, Mr Rotich told the House committee that Kenya’s interest rates were too high and needed to be brought down to spur private sector growth.
“The key is to address the root cause of high interest rates as this could be a structural problem since the cost of doing business has been high. The cost of funding is still high as our rates of savings are very low, at 10 to 12 per cent of gross domestic product. This means there is a big mismatch with the investments needed to grow the economy,” he said.
It is during his tenure that the country introduced a law capping interest rates to lower the cost of loans, a move that is yet to work out. And recently, the National Treasury launched a mobile-based purchase of government security, M-Akiba, which could drive up savings.
The Sh150 million bond has been taken up more than half way in under a week.