Home Featured WATIMA: Why Yatani’s budget isn’t aligned to the current realities of Covid-19

WATIMA: Why Yatani’s budget isn’t aligned to the current realities of Covid-19

by kenya-tribune


After seven years, we had a new face presenting the annual budget, Mr Ukur Yatani, whose theme was “stimulating the economy to safeguard livelihoods, jobs, businesses and industrial recovery”.

The theme is catchy and the budget seemed well thought through, with almost every sector of the economy receiving funding, but when subjected to the litmus test of economic realities, which is the heavy impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the budget is misaligned with reality.

To begin with, the theme and even the spending plan of government assumes that the economy has navigated itself out of the pandemic and so the focus is on pro-growth economic recovery.

The world is yet to come out of the pandemic and we are still looking at being under social-distancing rules with limited open borders in the next six months, with the economic impact being even more severe.

So, if we are talking about an economic recovery, that is not going to be possible because supply chains will not have opened up, meaning little stimulating effects. A pro-growth economic recovery is fallacious and pre-mature at this point is. Stabilisation of the economy should have been the priority.

Delving deeper, the spirit of Mr Yatani’s budget can be captured as a compromise between political and economic realities.


He was split between the President’s legacy Big Four agenda against an economic response towards the adverse effects of Covid-19 on the economy, and so came up with a cocktail of the Big Four agenda playing a major role in the recovery of the economy.

The government is looking at investing and attracting investment in the Big Four agenda as the driver of economic recovery.

Is the plan to use the Big Four as the driver to economic recovery sound and feasible? Covid-19 has delivered income shocks to businesses and individuals.

This means the government has to come up with a redistributive budget so as to safeguard livelihoods, jobs and businesses as the theme says, but that is not what this budget has done.

A redistributive budget should have been like this; since we are still in a health pandemic, we should have seen a big allocation towards health, water and sanitation because that is where much investment is needed in order for us to contain the pandemic and now work on a sustainable recovery plan.

With a systemic income shock, that means food security is expected to affect millions of Kenyans, so food security ought to be the next problem.

Food security is a complex problem. It is identified under the Big Four agenda as a food insufficiency problem whereas it is an income problem. Therefore, a robust cash transfer programme should have been the next budget item, taking a big part of the pie and not government investing in irrigation schemes.

After these two, the government can invest in education as well as a robust social protection of livelihoods and businesses. That is simply the stabilisation plan with a redistributive effect that the ordinary Kenyans need. So, allocating Sh128.3 billion towards the Big Four agenda and its enablers and drivers will only line the pockets of a few at the expense of many.

Lastly, there are transparency issues raised in the Budget and Appropriations Committee report that the CS failed to respond to. First, there has been no disclosure of the amount raised to address the pandemic through the Emergency Response Fund when all national government appropriations coming from the Fund must go through Parliament.

Second, the money raised through e-citizen has never been under the oversight of the National Assembly and has never been captured in budgets. These are serious issues the CS should have highlighted in his budget statement.

Mr Watima, an economist, writes for the ‘Business Daily’.

You may also like