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The country needs to get back on its feet

Sunday May 24 2020

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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President Uhuru Kenyatta has rolled out a Sh53.7 billion stimulus package to insulate Kenyans from the pangs of the coronavirus and, consequently, set the stage for post-pandemic economic recovery.

For a good measure, the deal has been broken down into eight components, including health, tourism, agriculture and education.

Besides the contagion, the country has been ravaged by floods arising from unusually long and heavy rains that submerged homes, demolished infrastructure such as roads and bridges and swept away farm produce.

In the mix are locusts that have invaded several counties. Cumulatively, the country has been confronted with multiple devastations that combine to create economic, environmental, health and social wreckages.

It is widely acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic is not only a health challenge but also economic and social.

Economic think tanks have made grim projections on the virus’ adverse effects on global, regional and national incomes.

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For Kenya, many workers in formal employment have been laid off and those in service forced to take pay cuts or unpaid leave.

Those in informal sectors have witnessed revenues evaporate. Uncertainty about the future has killed investment and forward planning.

INFRASTRUCTURE

President Kenyatta’s eight-point agenda certainly comes at the opportune moment.

More cash ought to be injected into the economy to spur productivity. Importantly, subsidies disbursed directly to the needy and elderly are vital in alleviating pain and restoring human dignity.

However, questions have to be asked about the efficacy of some of the proposals. Top on the card is infrastructure cash.

A sum of Sh5 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure reconstruction, and the plan is to use local labour and materials, which, arguably, would cut costs and, importantly, put money in the pockets of residents.

The principle is noble. However, this must be treated with caution. Often such cash is lost or wasted due to corruption.

The hospitality sector has been hit worst with the closure of airports, a ban on movement into and out of some counties and the shutdown of hotels and restaurants, hence the reason it requires a major boost.

But this should come with other measures that guarantee consumer spending. Notably, credit facilities proposed for small-scale enterprises are pivotal in resurrecting the sector. Even so, proper financial education is required to cushion borrowers.

Granted, the government must build in systems to guard against pilferage and wastage. Ultimately, the cash should be deployed appropriately.

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