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We fact-checked Kenyan president William Ruto’s fervent defence of his record — did his talking points add up?

During a hectic week of December 2023, Ruto marked his country’s independence day and hosted a media roundtable. At both events, he made several claims about his 15 months in office. We took a closer look at them.

13 claims, including on the cost of living, economic growth, debt and controversial taxes
Verdict
Four correct, two mostly correct, two unproven, five incorrect

The president was right about falling inflation, the number of Kenyans in the informal sector and remittances from the diaspora.
However, there wasn’t publicly available data to weigh up his claims about Kenya’s economic growth, both locally and in comparison to other countries.

And the president’s claims on imports, unpaid bills, more education funding and a court ruling on a controversial tax didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

On 17 December 2023 Kenyan president William Ruto hosted journalists at his residence to review his agenda, five days after presiding over events to mark 60 years of independence.

Both events received national coverage. Ruto, who took office in September 2022, made several claims about the country’s progress since then.

We checked these against the publicly available facts.

Claim
Inflation is now at 6.8%, down from a high of 9.2% last year.”

Verdict
Correct
Ruto first made this claim in his independence day speech on 12 December. He then repeated it to the journalists.

The country’s data agency, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), publishes annual and monthly inflation figures.

The most recent data covers November 2023 and shows inflation at 6.8%. The same figure is used by the World Bank in its latest update on Kenya.

The data also shows that inflation was higher than 9.2% in 2022 as claimed by the president, having reached 9.59% in October of that year.

It appears that Ruto was referring to the start of his term — inflation was 9.2% in September 2022. He missed an opportunity to show a greater decline.

Annual average inflation data as published in the KNBS economic surveys of 2022 and 2023 shows the following trend:

Kenya annual average inflation data (2017-2022)

Year

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

Inflation (%)

8

4.7

5.2

5.4

6.1

7.7

– Tess Wandia.

Claim
“… in the last six months, our GDP has grown at 5.4%.

Verdict
Unproven
A country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of the size of its economy. It is the market value of all the goods and services produced in a given period, usually a year.

GDP growth is the change in economic output from one year to the next or from one quarter to the next, usually expressed as a percentage.

Ruto also repeated this claim to the journalists, having first made it in his national day speech. He cited the World Bank as the source of his data.

According to the latest data from the development lender, Kenya’s GDP grew by 4.8% in 2022.

John Kinuthia, lead research analyst at the International Budget Partnership thinktank in Kenya, also directed us to the bank’s latest economic report on the country.

This estimated that Kenya’s economy grew by 5% in 2023, an “acceleration” from the 4.8% recorded in 2022.

But these are annual figures.

In the first quarter of 2023, citing KNBS data for September 2023, the bank estimated growth at 5.5%, and 5.4% in the second quarter.

Ruto’s claim of 5.4% growth in the “last six months” only holds true if he was referring to the first half of this year. But there isn’t publicly available data for the second half.

The World Bank said it acts as a “knowledge bank” for global analysis and studies. For the “specific” source of the data Ruto cited, spokesperson Keziah Muthembwa referred us back to the presidency.

We have contacted State House spokesperson Hussein Mohamed and will update this report with his response.

Until then, we can only rate the claim as unproven. (You can read more about what our ratings mean here.) – Makinia Juma.

Claim
“Kenya is the 29th fastest-growing economy globally.”

Verdict
Unproven
On both nationally televised occasions, Ruto again cited the World Bank as his source for this claim.

The bank’s World Development Indicators is a public database covering 217 economies – 189 member countries and 28 “other” economies.

The database, which is cross-comparable, only records annual GDP growth rates, Kinuthia of the International Budget Partnership told Africa Check

Of the 217 countries for which growth rates are available, at least 195 had data up to 2022, the most recent year for which annual data is available. Kenya was ranked 76th with a GDP growth rate of 4.8% in 2022.

We have not seen newer data to support Ruto’s claim. The World Bank also referred us to the president’s office. We’ve asked Mohamed, his spokesperson, for this information and will update this report when we hear back. Until then, we also rate this claim as unproven. – Makinia Juma.

Claim
“We have increased the total allocation to our education sector by an additional KSh120 billion this year.”

Verdict
Incorrect
Ruto told the journalists that his government had “in fact” this year “put an extra KSh120 billion (about US$775 million) in education”.

The extra money would be used to hire more teachers, support a new university funding model and improve school infrastructure, the president said earlier in his national day speech, where he gave a different figure of KSh127 billion.

For budgetary purposes, Kenya’s national treasury considers the education sector to include basic, technical and tertiary education, and the Teachers Service Commission, the country’s largest public employer.

The office of the controller of budget authorises all government expenditure in keeping with approved budgets. The office publishes quarterly reports showing budget allocation by sector and authorised spending.

The most recent, published in November 2023, showed that the allocation to the education sector increased from KSh544.52 billion in the 2022/23 financial year to KSh628.58 billion in the current 2023/24 financial year – an increase of KSh84.01 billion.

Similarly, treasury data released in November 2023 in preparation for the next budget, put funding to the education sector at KSh626.8 billion in 2023/24. This was an increase of KSh83 billion from the KSh543.8 billion budgeted in 2022/23.

We have not seen any data showing that the increase in the education budget from the previous year to the current year was KSh120 billion or more. The president’s claim is not accurate. – Tess Wandia.

Claim
“Our food import bill stands at KSh500 billion.

Verdict
Incorrect
Ruto first made this claim in September 2023. We fact-checked it and found it to be incorrect.

But he repeated it in his speech on 12 December, and also to the assembled journalists: “We are importing KSh500 billion every year [worth] of food items.”

The latest data, published by the country’s statistics office in December, shows the claim is still incorrect.

The country is estimated to have run up a food and beverage import bill of KSh253.7 billion in 2022, up from KSh212.8 billion in 2021. (The total import bill for 2022 was KSh2.49 trillion or $21.1 billion based on that year’s average exchange rate).

The food import bill for the first half of 2023 was KSh174.6 billion. Even with a ban on imports of the staple food maize, this figure is unlikely to reach KSh500 billion for the year – unless the local currency weakens dramatically. – Dancan Bwire.

Claim
There are 15 million Kenyans currently active in the informal sector.”

Verdict
Correct
Ruto said his government would extend retirement benefits coverage to 15 million Kenyans in the informal sector.

The informal economy, as defined by the International Labour Organization, includes workers or enterprises that are not adequately covered by official regulations due to inapplicability or non-compliance.

In Kenya, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank, the informal sector typically includes activities such as petty trading, selling second-hand goods, shoe shining, street vending, carpentry and repair and construction work.

The Kenya National Bureau of Standards publishes annual economic surveys containing employment data. The most recent highlights the informal sector as the main source of employment for the working population in Kenya, covering an estimated 15.96 million out of 19.1 million workers. The claim checks out. – Tess Wandia.

Claim
Imports to Kenya have gone down.”

Verdict
Incorrect
Ruto claimed that the country’s imports had fallen due to the weakening shilling “because our exports are now much more attractive” and the local currency was now at market rates.

Kenya’s statistics bureau keeps monthly data on imports and exports.

The data shows that in September 2022, when Ruto took office, the import bill was KSh207.6 billion. It has since ranged from a low of KSh175.3 billion in February to a high of KSh238.8 billion in August.

In September 2023, the most recent data, the value of imports was KSh215.6 billion – higher than when Ruto started his term. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
Kenya gets foreign remittances of $4 billion.”

Verdict
Correct
The president said he wanted to increase the amount of foreign currency coming into Kenya from $4 billion to $10 billion. This has been a notable talking point during his visits abroad.

The Central Bank of Kenya publishes monthly data on foreign remittances.

The data shows that in 2022, Kenya received $4.03 billion in remittances from abroad. In the first ten months of 2023, the diaspora has so far remitted $3.5 billion.

Ruto’s baseline of $4 billion dollars in diaspora remittances is on the money. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
“Kenya is a middle income economy in the same category as South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia.”

Verdict
Correct
The World Bank classifies Kenya, Morocco and Tunisia as lower-middle-income countries, with a gross national income of between $1,036 and $4,045 per capita.

Gross national income (GNI) is a measure of a country’s total economic output and income. It includes the total value of its GDP plus the net income it receives from other countries, such as remittances and dividends from overseas investments.

Kenya is in the same lower-middle-income band as Morocco and Tunisia, but not with South Africa, which is classified as an upper-middle-income country. These are countries with average GNI per capita incomes between $4,046 and $12,535.

So while both Kenya and South Africa are middle-income countries, with a GNI per capita of $6,780 in 2022, the latest year available, the latter’s was more than three times that of Kenya.

But Ruto’s broader point is correct. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
“The tax-to-GDP ratio in Kenya is at 15.6%, South Africa at 27%, 32% in Morocco.”

Verdict
Mostly Correct
Defending his government’s controversial taxes, Ruto claimed that Kenyans were not overtaxed.

“You know the people of Kenya are being pushed and being told, look you’re are paying more taxes than other countries. Is that true, that is not true, we are paying tax like all countries that are in our same category,” he said.

He mentioned South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia by way of comparison.

Taxes as a percentage of GDP show the amount of economic output that ends up as government revenue. It gives an indication of how efficient governments are at collecting taxes and how much people and companies are taxed.

According to the World Bank, countries should raise revenues equivalent to at least 15% of GDP to meet the basic needs of citizens and businesses.

The latest data on this is published in the Organisation for Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Revenue Statistics in Africa 2023.

This shows that in 2021 Kenya’s taxes amounted to 15.2% of GDP, Morocco’s 27.1% (and not 32%, which is Tunisia’s ratio) and South Africa’s 27%. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
For every ten shillings I collect, seven shillings go to paying debt.”

Verdict
Mostly Correct
Ruto has defended raising taxes to pay off Kenya’s crippling debt.

Asked about the large share of government taxes that drive up fuel prices in the country, Ruto said he needed the taxes to keep his government afloat.

But does 70% of Kenya’s revenue go to paying taxes, leaving only 30% for other government operations?

We previously fact-checked a similar claim where he put debt service as a proportion of revenue at 60%. We found that 58.7% of tax revenue goes to debt service.

In the 2023/24 financial year, the government hopes to collect KSh2.495 trillion in tax revenue, according to the latest report from the controller of budget, with data up to 30 September 2023. Of this, KSh1.75 trillion is expected to be used to service the public debt.

This works out to 70.1%.

In the first three months of the 2023/24 financial year, the government collected KSh514.3 billion in tax revenue and spent KSh347.2 billion – 67.5% – on debt repayment.

We therefore rate the president’s claim as mostly correct. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
We have KSh506 billion in pending bills.

Verdict
Incorrect
At the roundtable with journalists, the Kenyan president claimed that the government owed suppliers and contractors a total of KSh506 billion ($3.3 billion).

In its quarterly update published in November 2023, the national treasury recorded that the state owes KSh630.6 billion in outstanding bills as at September 2023.

The office of the controller of budget has data on pending bills for both national and county governments. As at 30 September, the office reported the value of outstanding bills at KSh794.18 billion.

National government ministries and departments owe KSh121.2 billion, government corporations KSh509.4 billion and counties KSh163.6 billion.

The president’s figure is much lower. – Alphonce Shiundu.

Claim
The courts did not declare the housing levy unconstitutional, it’s the media.”

Verdict
Incorrect
The controversial housing levy is designed to raise money for affordable housing. The Finance Act 2023 directed employers to deduct 1.5% of each employee’s gross salary, with each employer having to contribute the same amount per employee.

On 28 November 2023, the high court ruled that the levy was unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling to allow the government to appeal.

When Ruto spoke to journalists on 17 December, he implied that they had misreported the court’s decision.

“The problem of unconstitutional was made by the media,” he claimed.

When the journalists corrected him, he stuck to his guns. “If it is unconstitutional, why did the courts say we should continue to collect?” Ruto asked.

In their reporting of this exchange, the media seemed to backtrack.

So we listened to the court ruling and tracked down the judgement to find out exactly what the courts said about the housing levy.

The three-judge bench of the Kenyan high court did say the law was unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling until 10 January 2023 to allow the government to appeal. Ruto’s claim is incorrect. – Alphonce Shiundu.

IFCN Code of Principles
For democracy to function, public figures need to be held to account for what they say. The claims they make need to be checked, openly and impartially. Africa Check is an independent, non-partisan organisation which assesses claims made in the public arena using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting fact from fiction and publishing the results.

 

dalanews.co.ke https://g.page/r/CerTmAWCtzj4EBM/review ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ÿÛ C

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