Sh5b diverted from projects to fight drought

January 26, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – The government has re-allocated Sh5 billion from various projects to deal with the ongoing drought in the country, Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua has said.

Although he did not disclose the developments where the funds were diverted from, the PS said the money would be used to purchase food and animal feed for households affected by the drought.

"For the livestock sector, money is intended to be put through the Kenya Meat Commission which will buy animals from the farmers so that they can have income and which they can use to buy food without requiring to be given free food by the government," he said of the off-take program where purchased cattle is processed into corned beef.

The government has been criticised for failing to effectively plan and manage the drought despite having clear early warning systems. For instance, last year the Kenya Meteorological Department warned of a looming drought but no contingency measures were put in place.

But in defence of the government, the PS termed the current drought conditions as normal and assured that the country has enough food stocks.

"The conditions we have in Arid and Semi Arid Areas are normal. In terms of food availability, we have more that we can consume but of course they are people in the dry parts of the country who have challenges but the government is doing whatever is possible to make sure that they don\’t suffer," he said.

Going forward however, Mr Kinyua reiterated the government\’s commitment to continue investing in irrigation schemes and dams to reduce the country\’s over reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

Speaking during international customs day celebrations, the PS also expressed optimism that the dry spell would not significantly impact the country\’s revenue collection for the 2010/2011 financial year and neither would it affect the economy, which has been on a growth trajectory since 2009.

"Even though we may have experienced a shortfall in the first half of the year, revenue shortfall may not be that substantial in the remainder of the year. We may not hit the target but we believe that we will get close," he emphasised.

Speaking on the side lines of the function, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner General Michael Waweru downplayed fears that the implementation of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act would affect tax collection.

In retrospect, he said, the Act which restricts alcohol consumption to certain hours might even result in additional revenues as it will force people to drink in regulated and tax compliant bars.

There has also been speculation that the authority\’s revenue collection will be affected by the ongoing price wars in the tobacco and telecoms industries.

However, Mr Waweru said they were hoping the ministries concerned would engage their respective stakeholders and resolve the underlying issues so that their contribution to the economy is not impacted.

"I believe the stakeholders are looking into this not just because of revenue but because of the other overriding needs to make sure that the consumer does not suffer," the Commissioner General observed.

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