Deputy President William Ruto’s radical plans to reverse key flagship Jubilee projects have rattled President Kenyatta’s camp and could heighten tensions in the succession race.
The DP has vowed to roll back key gains in the President’s flagship project — the Standard Gauge Railway — as well as the competency-based curriculum (CBC), with its first cohort in Grade Six.
He has also pledged to remodel the Managed Equipment Services (MES) project and halt the bailing out of struggling state companies.
In the MES arrangement, counties pay Sh100 million a year for leased equipment the national government buys.
Last week, the DP vowed to rescind last June’s decision transferring Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) operations to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
The SGR deal has attracted the DP’s harshest criticism, although he has previously vouched for the inland container depots (ICDs) in Naivasha and Embakasi on many occasions, including a 2018 Nakuru Investment Conference, in which he said it was the best idea to expand the economy.
“It was never the intention of the government to build the SGR and frustrate small businesses in Coast. It was meant to make the port more efficient and to improve services,” said an analyst.
“Unfortunately, a few people took advantage of the project and ended up with selfish programmes to the detriment of Coast residents.”
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui yesterday termed the DP’s plan as a form of economic sabotage.
“My only question is, is Nakuru not part of Kenya? Instead of engaging in conversations on how to enlarge the national cake and reach everyone, we are entertaining retrogressive policies targeting certain regions for short-term political expediency,” he said.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, however, said the reversal of the ICD model was not a way to kill Nakuru’s economy as there were other ways to tap into its potential.
“A ‘hustler’ government will establish a free economic zone in Naivasha, where companies will get tax waivers. That will create employment for many. The current SGR is far away from Naivasha and terminates in a private land and locals don’t benefit,” he said.
Dr Kang’ata said most of those projects were rolled out with the aim of looting public coffers. He cited the controversial lease of medical equipment worth over Sh63 billion, saying, such a deal would be reversed and money channelled to the bottom-up economic model.
“Anything that has been done to enhance corruption will be undone. UDA [United Democratic Alliance] believes in transparency and a graft-free economy. We will jail those who have enriched themselves unjustly,” he said.
On education, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said the CBC system was hurriedly implemented without wide consultations with stakeholders. He added that it’s a big burden to millions of parents.
“The controversial system will be scrapped once the Ruto/Mudavadi government takes power in August,” he tweeted in February. Mr Mudavadi, who could become the Prime Cabinet Secretary in a Ruto government, has repeated this in campaign rallies across the country.
Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula recently observed: “There is something frustrating for students, teachers and parents called CBC. We will do away with this curriculum if we ascend to power come August 9.”
Prof Masibo Lumala of Moi University yesterday said Ruto was making a big gamble by going for key projects implemented in a government he helped to form.
“He is whipping up emotions against the SGR idea in Mombasa, but he’s just looking for votes. He should instead talk about extending it to Kisumu and Malaba. His plan to reverse everything that the Jubilee government has done, which he is part of, may not work for him. This can be used to portray him as a person who cannot be trusted,” he said.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said the DP was only targeting “luxurious projects” even though he did not say how SGR, CBC and MES deals were in that category.
“Those expensive flagship programmes are the ones that increase the tax burden to Kenyans. We will revise the tax payable and zero rate essential products to reduce the cost of living. We’ll do away with luxurious projects,” he said.
The legislator said reversing the CBC will involve fresh public participation, adding, the current regime has been using threats.
“We bring all the stakeholders in the education sector together, which can be done within 100 days in office and engage them on how best to implement CBC. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had closed the doors for public participation. Ours will not be about coercion, we will realign it to be in line with our economy,” the Kimilili MP said.
On struggling sugar factories, the DP said bailing them out had not improved operations.
“We’ve put money in Mumias and Nzoia sugar factories but we’ve not succeeded in finding a solution for the woes in the sector. As the government of Kenya Kwanza,as our first role in the first 100 days, we will write off all debts these factories owe to the government. We will bring back the balance sheet of Mumias and Nzoia to zero,” DP Ruto said in Bungoma.
“Where some of these debts belong to other companies, we’ll renegotiate and the government will pay,” he added.
While in Kiminini, Trans Nzoia County, recently, he said his administration will stop bailouts to big companies like Kenya Airways.
“If the government can pump billions to just one company like Kenya Airways, if that amount is redirected to SMEs, is there any problem?” he posed.
Jubilee Secretary-General and Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni described Ruto pledges as retrogressive.
“Doing away with projects means that we’ve sunk in money that we can’t recover. All projects should be completed. The Ruto team has not considered what should be done for the economy to thrive,” he said.