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No time to celebrate for cabinet secretaries

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By TF News Team

Appointments to the cabinet in the previous governments of retired presidents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki were always associated with jubilation by appointees’ supporters and friends. In most cases it was seen as a reward to an entire community.Ms Charity Ngilu to spearhead land reformsMs Charity Ngilu to spearhead land reforms

However that seems to have changed with the entry of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. Few of those appointed seemed very excited. Congratulatory messages have also been limited. Even the two seasoned politicians on the list; Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu betrayed any no strong emotions.

 

Those who managed to talk instead hinted to the challenges ahead. Unlike their colleagues in previous administrations, they have no time to orgies home coming parties to show off the ‘flag’. Much is expected from them and the appointing authority said as much.

President Kenyatta told the appointees that their first duty after they are cleared by parliament is to develop a clear programme on how women and youth would be mainstreamed in all the ministries. He promised to personally oversee that strategy.


“In all, and with our mortgage rates now at extraordinary highs in terms of banks’ mark-up on finance, it is time to seriously address ways to move home ownership to a next level.
As things stand, the potential of home ownership financing in alleviating housing issues country-wide is being stymied, at a cost that we will continue to pay as an obstacle to development unless we now choose this moment to take a more productive path”-Ms Caroline Kamau, CEO Mortgage Company

While some cabinet secretaries will find the going very tough due to their inexperience and the high expectations from most Kenyans, others will be finding it a bit easier by virtue of previous experience in the former government.

Ms Charity Ngilu for example has served in the ministries of Health and Water in the last decade and so she will find it easy to maneouver around in the enlarged ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

However, the task at hand is daunting considering the high expectations in land reforms. Land was effectively used as a campaign tool manly by Mr Raila Odinga-led Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord). President Kenyatta Jubilee Coalition lost miserably in the coast region where issue of land ownership and squatters is rampant.

Failure by retired Mwai Kibaki to gazette members of the Land Commission that is expected to address the issue worsened the matter. To most observers, the delay was seen as an attempt to scuttle the reforms and it is from this premise that the ever charming Ngilu will take the baton.

It will also not be easy for her in the housing sub-sector where demand for houses is ever increasing against limited supply. Though the country is in need of 250,000 housing units annually, the market can only provide about 50,000 units leaving millions of Kenyans to live in the slums.

The cost of mortgage is also beyond the reach of most Kenyans and Ngilu will be expected to use his negotiation skills to convince banks to lower interest rates in order to release more funds to the sector.

She will also be charged with the duty to ensure urban areas that have become centers of growth are catered for. Though it is not yet clear whether the urban development encompasses all urban areas in the country, the ministry will be on the look out to ensure that the centres in the counties are not marginalized as governors in the counties try to develop their areas that are mostly rural in nature.

Her former colleague in Tourism Mr Balala has a task of developing the newly created ministry of Mining. He is viewed as a performer and a go-getter. He is not afraid of controversy though this attitude has landed him in trouble a number of times. He has been sacked from cabinet twice.

However, it is this attitude and strong political support from President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto that may turn out to be his strength in bringing sanity in the mining sector. The sector has been dominated by a few people, most of the foreigners.

According to a recent World Bank Report, mineral resource has also turned into a curse in a number of African countries. Some of those countries have not developed as fast as would be expected despite huge revenue inflows from the mining sector. Kenya should avoid that path and use the expected revenue to accelerate economic growth.

Though it is not clear whether oil exploration and exploitation falls under his docket, Mr Balala has a duty to ensure that the sector contributes significantly to economic development.

According to the 2012 economic survey, the quantity of minerals produced increased by 13 per cent from 1.4 million tonnes in 2010 to 1.6 million in 2011.

Total earnings from mineral production also rose by 21.1 per cent from Sh15.1 billion to Sh18.3 billion mainly due to high export and domestic prices of most mineral products in 2011.The value of soda ash, gold and fluorspar accounted for 92.7 per cent of the overall output value.

Soda ash production increased 5.4 per cent from 473,000 tonnes to 499,000 while fluorspar production more than doubled from 40,000 tonnes to 95,000 tonnes. Production of diatomite also more than trebled as a result of expanded markets for the products in South Africa and Uganda.

The report says production of crude salt increased from 6,000 tonnes to 24,000 tonnes while the volume of gemstones almost doubled mainly due to increased demand of low grade sapphires and corundum/ruby gemstones by Thailand and India.

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