This article first appeared in my column with the Business Daily on June 21, 2015
The 2015/16 Budget of more than Sh2 trillion indicates the government will raise expenditure by 17 per cent. But is the budget pro-development? A useful way of determining whether development is the focus of a Budget is looking at allocations to health, education, water and youth.Health and education are important as they invest in the country’s human capital that often drives economic growth and development. Water is important as a basic human right.
Given that more than a third of the population is youth (aged 18-35), it is important the segment get budget support to build up skills, employability and employment opportunities for Kenya to reap the youth dividend of innovation, energy and affordable labour.
In addition to this, one should take note of the ratio between allocations and expenditure related to recurrent versus development costs; a pro-development budget has higher outlay for development.
A quick analysis of the key sectors reveals education previously got 26 per cent of the total; in this Budget that figure is 22 per cent. The last budget allocated four per cent to health; it is unchanged. Water (and regional development) got four per cent in both budgets. In the last budget, youth (alongside gender and culture) received less than one per cent, the same as this year.
Juxtapose these percentages with security (15 per cent) and infrastructure and energy (27 per cent), both of which the government openly stated are top priorities.
Although one can argue peace and infrastructure are the foundations of development, but shouldn’t the focus be promoting and defending national economic development? Because without defeating poverty, Kenya will remain weak and vulnerable, no matter how many roads and fighter jets it has.
The 2015/16 Budget seems to say development-related sectors are becoming less of a priority for government. However, there are some steps the Budget takes that are pro-development; for example, an additional pro-youth element of the budget is rebates to corporate bodies hiring new graduates and supporting them to build the relevant skills and experience.
To qualify, employers must provide internships/apprenticeships to a minimum of 10 youths for a period of six to 12 months. Although this is commendable it may be a misplaced strategy because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the failure to offer relevant curricula.
Perhaps, the government should consider deploying strategies to revamp training offered in the first place.
One also has to analyse allocations to recurrent versus development expenditure and audit that spending.
International Budget Partnership (IBP) indicates that in 2013/14, the government allocated 58 per cent of the Budget to recurrent but spent 78 per cent on the same. In 2014/15, recurrent was allocated 58 per cent but IBP projects government will eat into 63 per cent of the Budget.
This year, the recurrent versus development stands at 52 per cent to 48 per cent. In short, in all the past three budgets, recurrent allocations trump development and even worse, actual recurrent is higher than what was allocated. This is a concern.
Also note that an analysis of Q4 2014 of the budget by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) revealed a failure to spend 48 per cent of the development budget.
So, the government is overspending on recurrent expenditure such as salaries but underspending on development. The government would do well to push for more austerity in recurrent expenditure.
Ms Were is a development economist. firstname.lastname@example.org; @anzetse