President Uhuru’s stimulus programme will impact all sectors

Friday, May 29th, 2020 00:00 |
Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/File

Sandra Ochola  

The debate as to whether we should continue to stay home during this tough season has been ongoing for weeks.

The initial goodwill that the public bestowed on the government as it addressed the spread of the virus is waning as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta, this week recognised this state of affairs and indicated his appreciation of the delicate balance that must be struck between protecting lives and saving the economy. 

Various economic sectors have been affected over the past two months. Blueprints such as the Big Four agenda and Vision 2030 have suffered a temporary setback as national resources are directed towards the fight against Covid-19. 

Many families and communities are living in lack, as their breadwinners are unable to meet the basic needs.

Yet, the danger of exposing populations to the deadly virus still exists. In fact, most vulnerable groups that have been spared the menace of the virus now run a greater risk of infection and death if we were to open up the country. 

Saving both lives and livelihoods will require strategic initiatives to protect the country’s economy and restore the dignity of its citizens.

It is for this reason that the delicate balance espoused by the President seeks to enable a phased-out approach that will likely get the country back to normalcy and with as few Covid-19 casualties as possible. 

At a personal level, the government urges continued adherence to existing public health safety measures.

Putting on face masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance are what will, in the interim, protect us from the virus.

Further, our response to those who will likely be infected once we resume normalcy, will dictate the pace at which the virus spreads in our homes and stations of service. 

To address the economic downturn, the President has unveiled an eight-point Economic Stimulus Programme that is intended to safeguard Kenya’s economic interests. 

The programme will among other goals, target the sectors that have the capacity to put people back to work quickly and use labour intensive projects to create jobs and stimulate the economy. 

It is further, based on the reality that both the formal and informal sectors have taken a hit from the virus and will need strategic economic interventions that can reach as many people as possible.

The package also seeks to fill in existing resource gaps that when implemented, will bulwark the economy for the long term. 

Key to these interventions include enhancing SME liquidity by clearing the VAT backlog, funding credit guarantees and offering requisite support to business that can normalise their operations over a short period. 

It is also advocating for the continued support of vulnerable groups through cash transfers and is calling for the hiring of more teachers and health workers to address the likely health and education outcomes when restrictions are lifted.

The hospitality industry has been grossly impacted by the pandemic. High end hotels are closing their doors to both customers and employees.

The plan intends to promote the liquidity of conservancies as it markets tourism destinations. 

Further, some hotels will receive grants through the tourism finance corporation to help them stay afloat during this time.

Tied to this, the interventions in the agricultural sector will focus on cushioning flower farmers and providing cash support for the purchase of farm inputs. 

The bulk of the labour-intensive undertakings will emanate from the manufacturing and water and sanitation initiatives.

This will involve  rehabilitation of wells, water pans and underground tanks in arid areas.

The plan will provide a line of credit for SMEs in the manufacturing sector as the government encourages a “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” approach for its locally assembled vehicles. 

In the end, no single country has a foolproof return-to-work-system that will guarantee a return to normalcy.

Perhaps, our normalcy from here on will be filling the social and economic voids left behind by the virus.

We must thus, support each other, our leaders and institutions as we all grapple with our new realities. —The writer is an Advocate of the High Court

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