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President William Ruto has suggested that his radical governance policies are facing resistance from individuals with vested interests, including state officers and others who have benefited from an unjust system.

In a fierce defense of his controversial Housing and Universal Health projects, which have run into headwinds in courts, President Ruto protested the alleged abuse of independent institutions to promote selfish interests at the expense of the interest of the public.

He sensationally claimed that some litigations currently in courts challenging some of his key programs have been sponsored by individuals with vested interests, with the sole aim of sabotaging their delivery.

In his New Year’s message to the nation, the Head of State also accused the opposition Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition led by Raila Odinga for allegedly pursuing ‘division, conflict and anarchy.’

He said that the public interest ought to be protected by the country’s constitutional dispensation that provides for the implementation of state policy for the benefit of all citizens.

“This perspective radically increases the number of possible winners and dramatically diminishes likely losers. Yet every new way of doing things can threaten the privileges of a dominant minority and alienate the beneficiaries of an unjust system.

Whenever this happens, their associates can attempt to hijack national institutions, turning them into anti-people weapons for a select privileged few and saboteurs of inclusive transformation for the majority. We are, unfortunately, at such a moment in our national history, and the question is; how do we proceed from this point?” said the President.

He said a number of policies, programs and other strategic interventions initiated by his Kenya Kwanza administration have been delayed and obstructed by persistent litigation.

“There is nothing wrong with challenging policy and holding government to account and, in fact, the national interest is best safeguarded in an environment defined by the competition of progressive ideas, where a good proposal gives way to a better one,” he said.

“…. you will agree with me that there is something fundamentally wrong with opposition, without any viable alternatives, whose only purpose is division, conflict, and anarchy; and litigation, sponsored by hostage-taking vested interests, with the sole aim to delay, derail and sabotage the delivery of public programs and defeat public interest,” he went on.

President Ruto has in the recent past suffered a series of blows in courts after some of his programs were blocked following petitions.

Mr Odinga recently succeeded in having the High Court suspend the planned sale of 11 parastatals, among them the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

The Housing Levy, through which Kenya Kwanza targets to put up 250,000 units every year, has also been halted by the courts. It was quashed by the High Court for being discriminatory as it only targets 3.2 million Kenyans in formal employment. The Courts, however, suspended implementation of the decision.

Similarly, President Ruto’s plan for the Social Health Insurance Fund (Shif) was also put on hold after a High Court Judge ruled that it was illegal for the government to deny Kenyans who are not registered with the fund key services.

The planned rollout of Maisha Namba and leasing out of the Lamu and Mombasa ports have also been put on hold by courts.

The President fell short of naming individuals serving in public offices for being part of the people with vested interests in sabotaging his plans.

“We must recognise the extraordinary privilege that has been bestowed upon us to serve this nation, as members of the cabinet, the civil service, the security services, parliament, county governments, the judiciary or in the commissions and independent offices.

Intellectual capacities
Accordingly, we are under solemn obligation to dedicate all our time, energy and abilities to the advancement of the people’s aspirations and the improvement of their well-being. In other words, the very best of our professional, moral and intellectual capacities must be summoned in the service of the nation, and as trustees of the people, we are duty-bound to exercise public authority and deploy public resources to the best of our judgment and discretion, and with the public interest in mind,” said the President.

He said public officers have to ensure that institutional independence does not mutate into impunity and avoidance of accountability.

“We must be cautious, lest our professed pursuit of constitutionalism and obedience to the law, turns into an empty ritual and hollow vanity for the majority of citizens. We must take abundant care that our claim to protecting or advancing the people’s rights does not deny them legitimate opportunities, or make a mockery of their struggles and aspirations,” he went on.

He said it is ironic for a public servant, enjoying a house mortgage at a 3 per cent interest rate to make decisions that frustrate the housing program. He said such decisions have the potential of robbing millions of youth of employment prospects and denying millions of Kenyans the chance to own a home like the state officers.

He said, it is also ironic when a public officer, who benefits from unlimited medical insurance, invokes the law to derail implementation of the universal healthcare delivery. Such a decision, he said, ends up denying millions of vulnerable Kenyans a health cover enjoyed by the officials.

“It is the case when a politician neglects the boundaries of democratic competition: that opposing policy does not permit undermining the nation or sabotaging the national interest or the welfare of the people,” said the President.

Dr Ruto said the housing program will not only provide decent homeownership for millions, including slum- dwellers but also reverse agricultural land fragmentation. He said the program has since created 120,000 jobs, with plans to employ more this year.

“For the first time my mama mboga and bodaboda friends will now have a chance to own a home in our Sh4000-a-month, 3 per cent interest tenants purchase scheme, as will other Kenyans on our 6 per cent interest affordable housing and the 9 per cent market housing programs,” he said.

At the same time, the President revisited the challenges the country has gone through in the year 2013, including the high cost of living.

Dr Ruto has cited war in Europe, rising interest rates in America and severe drought as the main contributors to the current high cost of living even as he highlighted interventions by his administration in realizing long-term gains.

President Ruto said his administration managed to navigate major economic challenges and made numerous wins.

Rise in food prices
In his speech, the President said fertilizers and cereals experienced significant price hikes, resulting in a rise in food prices and the general cost of living.

“The impact of global economic dynamics adversely affected us, compounded by the war in Europe, rising interest rates in America and the unfortunate effects of climate change that caused the most severe drought in 40 years. All these factors slowed down our economic performance, resulting in increased commodity prices,” said Dr Ruto.

He described 2023 as the year of a paradigm shift, with his administration making bold and long term-term decisions.

He said the choices his administration made over the last one year were neither easy, populist, nor convenient, but were meaningful and designed for long-term gains.

“2023 is the year we decided to stop wastage and extravagance, instead opting to live within our means. We decided to cut expenditure by up to Sh400 billion to reduce our borrowing. We decided to enhance our tax revenues by Sh600 billion to fund our programs and development,” he said.

He said the country managed to triumph over the threat of economic stagnation over high debt levels.

He described the country as secure with regard to its sovereign debt obligations. The president said inflation has since reduced to 6.8 per cent and our GDP is growing at the rate of 5.4 per cent, placing Kenya as the 29th fastest-growing economy globally.

He said his administration has deliberately redirected its focus to support production through incentives in our crops, livestock, and fisheries programs. He said his government opted to get rid of consumption subsidies.

“Today, with the blessing of good weather, these interventions have enabled us to increase our food production by 40 per cent, at a fraction of the previous cost. Working with farmers, our foremost patriots, we shall double our efforts in 2024, until we reduce our Sh500 billion food import bill to zero, and rid our country of the shame of hunger,” said the President.

 

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