Kenya: Another Gloomy Budget Day Due to Covid

In making his short trip between the Treasury Building and parliament to present Kenya's biggest budget ever at Sh3.6 trillion, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani was carrying the aspirations of the country in his hands.

Delivered under increasingly difficult economic conditions due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged every sector of the economy, Mr Yatani was hard-pressed to inspire hope in the ordinary citizen.

Accompanied by his Principal Secretary Julius Muia and Chief Administrative Secretary Nelson Gaichuhie, Mr Yatani left his office at 2pm and headed for Parliament. However, a journey that is supposed to take him just two minutes in his car saw him taking a whole 19 minutes.

Mr Yatani was perhaps the most guarded man in Kenya yesterday. His official vehicle was surrounded by heavily armed officers from the paramilitary General Service Unit, together with a number of regular police and a battery of journalist in tow to capture the best shots.

Upon stepping on the precincts of parliament at exactly 2:19pm carrying the ceremonial briefcase nicknamed "Kenya's wallet", Mr Yatani was received by Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya, his minority counterpart John Mbadi, chairman of the Budget and Appropriation Committee Kanini Kega, Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe and Deputy Majority Leader Jimmy Angwenyi.

However, due to Covid-19, the usual fanfare that accompanies Budget Day was absent.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, in his communication to members, said there would be no cocktail in parliament's garden as has been tradition.

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106-page speech

"Due to limitations occasioned by the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, we have not invited our usual guests to the occasion, nor will it be followed by the usual garden cocktail," Speaker Justin Muturi said.

The Speaker called in Mr Yatani at exactly 3:14pm to make his speech to pensive members, as millions of Kenyans followed on their TV screens and other electronic gadgets, hoping for good news amid the gloom caused by the pandemic.

Sipping his water three times throughout his speech, a calm and composed Yatani ran through his 106-page speech flawlessly.

In the speech, which took 1 hour 50 minutes to read, Mr Yatani said the "recovery budget" is meant to bring back hope.

Three cabinet secretaries were at parliament in solidarity with their colleague on his big day. They were Ms Sicily Mbarire (Water, Sanitation and Irrigation), Mr James Macharia (Transport) and Ms Margaret Kobia (Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs).

Other dignitaries who attended the event were Central Bank of Kenya governor Patrick Njoroge and the chief registrar of the Judiciary, Ms Anne Amadi.

In defence of the country's biggest ever budget, Mr Yatani said the economy is growing and the expenditure also keeps growing.

"We are likely to realise the benefits of the growing budget through the creation of multiplier effect to the various sectors," Mr Yatani said.

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