President Kenyatta begins his two day tour of the Western region today with the key highlight being the reopening of the Pan Paper Mills in Webuye, Bungoma county.
Residents are hopeful that the Pan Paper Mill’s revival will stimulate the region’s economic growth by creating more employment opportunities.
The President is also expected to issue title deeds to squatters in the controversial Chebyuk settlement scheme in Mt Elgon.
Mr Kenyatta will launch development projects in a bid to woo the region’s support ahead of next year’s General Elections.
Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka describes the reopening of the paper mill as a major blessing to the region.
“The reopening of the company will awaken Western region’s massive economic potential and creating job opportunities,” said Mr Lusaka pointing out that the county government will ensure that it offers the necessary support to the new investors.
Western Kenya's economy suffered a major blow after the giant company was placed under receivership over 10 years ago.
Tarlochan Limited a subsidiary of Rai Group of Companies took over the company following the signing of sale and purchase agreement between the company and the receiver managers.
The Rai Group of investors bought Pan Paper Mills at a cost of Sh 900 million with a number of leaders from the region claiming it was undervalued and want the deal reviewed.
Governor Lusaka discloses that about 500 workers have been employed at the miller and the figure is set to increase by June next year.
CREATE MORE JOBS
“We expect the factory will have doubled its operation capacity by next to create more employment opportunities,” said Mr Lusaka.
According to Rai Groups of Company Chairman Jaswant Rai, Sh 6 billion is required to rehabilitate and revive machines in the next 10 years.
“The handover process provides an opportunity for us to re-asses the plant and equipment. From our initial assessment, most of the critical machinery will require total replacement and technological upgrades to ensure that we can start operations within this calendar year,” said Mr Rai in an interview in May this year.
Bungoma residents are optimistic that the revival plan would create more jobs and this will ensure cash flow in the area.
The miller is expected to employ about 1500 employees once they start running and this will ensure that there is cash flow and other businesses will pick up.
The President’s tour to the region comes barely a month after he presided over Kibabii University graduation ceremony.
He will also tour Kakamega and Busia counties to launch various development projects.