How Kenya’s Finance Ministers Got Us To Sh2 bn Debt Per Day

Kenya’s debt ceiling currently stands at Sh9 trillion as set by the public finance management law. Treasury has however warned that the country’s debt including committed undisbursed balances will surpass the set ceiling if the borrowing pace remains the same. The reigning government has been accused of stepping hard on the debt gas pedal to finance its political promises, and unprecedented spending on infrastructure further pushing the country in the red. Under the Jubilee government, Kenya’s borrowing rate has gone up toSh59 billion each month equaling Sh2 billion every 24 hours.

Since the Moi era, through Kibaki’s reign and now Kenyatta’s presidency, finance ministers have played a key role in the country’s public debt that now stands at 7.2 trillion. Those allocated the finance docket over the years have not had it easy, with most of them facing corruption charges forcing them out of office unceremoniously.

Kenya has had 14 finance ministers since 1965. James Gichuru 1965-1969, Mwai Kibaki (1969-1981), Arthur Magugu (1981-1988), George Saitoti (1988-1992), Musalia Mudavadi’s (1993-1997) Simeon Nyachae (1998-1999), Chris Okemo (1999-2001).

The Kibaki and Kenyatta presidency saw the following serve as finance ministers; Christopher Obure (2001-2002), David Mwiraria (2003-2006), Francis Masakhalia (2006-2006), Amos Kimunya (2006-2008) John Michuki (2008-2009), and Uhuru Kenyatta (2009-2011), Robinson Githae (2011-2013) Henry Rotich (2013-2020) and Ukur Yatani 2020 to date.

In 2002 as the late and former President Daniel Arap Moi left office, Kenya’s public debt stood at Sh630 billion as officially stated by Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). Mwai Kibaki widely known as an economist having previously held office in the ministry of finance appointed David Mwiraria as minister for finance and would later be succeeded by four others including the current President Uhuru Kenyatta.

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David Mwiraria

Having succeeded Chris Obure who left the debt book at Sh630 billion, David Mwiraria held office for three years from 2003. In his 38 months tenure, Mwiraria increased the country’s debt by Sh112.7 billion. Following the Anglo Leasing scandal, he was forced to resign leaving the public debt at Sh745 billion.

Amos Kimunya

Assuming office in 2006, Amos Kimunya increased the public debt to Sh860 billion an equal of Sh140 million debt every 24hours. His tenure would later be marred by the Grand Regency Scandal concerning the sale of the hotel to a group of Libyan investors, directed by the Finance Minister. It is during this time that Kimunya coined infamous “I would rather die than resign” phrase in his defense.

John Michuki

Appointed acting minister in the shadows of the corruption saga in 2008, John Michuki’s borrowing pace would exceed that of his predecessor further increasing public debt. During the first six months, Michuki borrowed Sh621 million per day and within the 12months in office, Michuki had borrowed Sh111 billion leaving the debt book at Sh972 billion.

Uhuru Kenyatta

In 2009, the current President was appointed Minister for Finance. His borrowing pace would surpass former ministers within 37 months of being in office. Kenyatta borrowed Sh477 million every twenty-four hours, Sh14.3 billion each month and eventually left the debt book at Sh1.5 trillion. Following a ruling by the International Criminal Court concerning the 2007 Post-Election Violence, Uhuru Kenyatta was forced to exit office in 2011.  

Robinson Githae

Appointed at a time public debt was on the rise, Robinson Githae did not change borrowing momentum and he would go ahead to borrow another Sh367 billion within his 16-month stint. His borrowing increased to Sh764 million every day equaling a monthly debt of Sh23 billion.

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Henry Rotich

Year 2013, in the wake of Jubilee’s tenure Henry Rotich was appointed finance Cabinet Secretary. Owing to a need to finance a government whose promises had overweighed the country’s budget, the finance minister introduced Eurobonds and increased domestic borrowing. The first was in June 2014, a debut bond of Sh200 billion and a further $750 million was tapped. The second was in February 2018 when a dual-tranche of Sh200 billion was issued; 10-year tenor of Sh100 billion- and 30-year tenor of a similar amount.

Recorded as the longest serving finance minister, Rotich borrowed Sh4.1 trillion over 74 months, an average of Sh1.8 billion daily and Sh56 billion on a monthly basis. Rotich was forced to leave office in 2019 following corruption charges.

Ukur Yatani

The current Finance Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani who took over the hot seat is no different on the debt gas pedal from his predecessor. By November 2020, CS Yatani had increased the country’s debt by Sh1.2 trillion, borrowing 77 million in 15 months also an average of Sh2.6 billion every 24 hours.

If the borrowing trend goes on as is, the public debt will be something over Sh8 trillion and not so much left to breach the current debt ceiling.

Gathoni Kuria

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