Uhuru, Ruto allies disagree in Senate over debt ceiling

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 00:00 |
A senate sitting on November 5, 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s allies yesterday joined forces to stave off Deputy President William Ruto’s lieutenants out to shoot down proposed regulation to increase the State debt ceiling to Sh9 trillion.

In what is shaping up into a battle for the soul of the Handshake, Ruto’s allies said the motion sought to expand the debt limit without asking  whether the money the State is seeking to borrow would be put to good use.

The actual vote is due today at 2.30pm.

In a heated five-hour debate that saw Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen break ranks with his allies, the pro-Handshake team rallied members to  approve the Sh9 trillion ceiling, saying the country faced an financial crisis.

Leading the push for the passage of the motion, Minority leader James Orengo said debt was not a new thing as it had continuously troubled the minds of Kenya and its leaders since independence.

“As leaders we cannot oppose the raising of the debt ceiling without giving a solution. We must not talk of problems, we must also talk of solutions,” he said.

He added: “Kenya is approaching the situation Greece was in a few years ago when the Greeks faced a financial crisis. We are not prepared to live with austerity measures. They have consequences, as drastic as happened in Greece.”  

Economic meltdown

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi said though Kenya’s debt was unsustainable, it would be impossible to do any meaningful development projects without borrowing.

“We don’t have funds to continue or complete any development projects. If we don’t approve, we will have an economic meltdown,” Moi warned.

But DP Ruto allies insisted raising the debt ceiling would open a floodgate for expensive debt and bad loans.

“Agreeing with proposed regulations will be auctioning Kenyans to international lenders and meting more suffering on them,” said Kericho senator Aaron Cheruiyot.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the country’s economy was not doing well and urged the House and Kenyans to reject more borrowing.

“Nandi county has no projects funded by this heavy and gluttonous borrowing by the national government. The Chinese loans are very expensive and dangerous,” he said.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi advised the senators not vote blindly without establishing if the country had enough cash flows to repay the debt.

 “Time has come that we must stand up to be counted, say no to reckless borrowing to resist by any means possible the kind of threats we receive every day,” he said.

And as Murkomen lobbied for the motion, his allies in the DP’s camp accused of him trying to intimidate them. 

“Let’s pass this regulation so that we can save our country from grinding to a halt for lack of money to implement projects,” Murkomen said as he seconded the motion proposed by Senator Samuel Poghisio.

However, Nominated Senator Milicent Omanga accused the House Majority leader of intimidating and coercing members to pass the notice against their wish.

“We are actually selling our country. If we agree to allow the government to borrow more, it means we are killing our counties. If we say that we want to open floodgates, then it means that our counties will get less. We will not be defenders of devolution,” she said.

“The majority leader is trying to intimidate the people. We oppose this motion,” she added.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina supported the bid to increase the ceiling but noted that the cost of borrowing would be very high and the economy would stagnate. 

“We must be prepared and tell Kenyans that if we pass this, borrowing internally will be difficult and interest charged on loans will be high. People are suffering,” he said. “Let’s allow Treasury to raise the debt ceiling but encourage them to leave the private sector to help build this economy,” said senator.

More on National