, ISIOLO, Kenya, Mar 11 – President Uhuru Kenyatta Friday launched a Sh6 billion Equalization Fund to uplift disadvantaged counties that have lagged behind in development.
The Sh6 billion allocated to the Fund for this financial year amounts to 0.8 percent of the last audited revenues approved by the National Assembly – a notable improvement on the minimum constitutional requirement of 0.5 percent.
“We plan to continue exceeding the minimum requirement until we compensate for the time that has lapsed without the Fund,” President Kenyatta said.
He disclosed that under the Fund, counties in the Arid and Semi Arid (ASAL) regions will receive between Sh185 million and Sh650 million this financial year.
The Head of State, who was accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, spoke when he opened the Pastoralists’ Leadership Summit at the Samburu Simba Lodge in Isiolo County.
The summit whose theme was ‘Devolved Governance: A call for more Effective Public Participation and Political Action in Pastoralist Areas’ brought together leaders from Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Samburu, Tana River, Lamu, Kajiado and Narok counties.
President Kenyatta expressed confidence that with proper co-ordination and administration, the Equalization Fund will spark a wave of public investment that will hasten development in the pastoralist counties and ensure equity in national development.
“With the money available, I urge local leaders to immediately begin leveraging the funds to cater to basic community needs in your respective counties and create meaningful change among your constituents,” President Kenyatta said.
He added: “In word and deed, my Administration has demonstrated unwavering commitment to investing in regions traditionally disadvantaged.”
President Kenyatta also announced that a Livestock Marketing Authority will be established in the 2016/2017 financial year to help the pastoralist communities reap maximum profit from the sale of their animals.
“We will allocate money in the 2016/2017 financial year to make the Authority operational,” the President said.
While assuring the pastoralist communities of his support, he challenged leaders to change their mindset and thinking positively.
“Let us stop negative thinking. Let us think of what we need to do to improve the lives of our people. Let us say marginalisation is a thing of the past,” he urged leaders attending the summit.
He reaffirmed his government’s commitment to ensuring that devolution succeeds by empowering county governments to undertake initiatives that spur development.
President Kenyatta observed that funding to counties is increased each year, maintaining a level of financing that is above the minimum constitutional requirement.
“In the last financial year, counties received a total of Sh294 billion. Between 2013 and 2016, we devolved Sh168.2 billion to our arid and semi-arid regions,” he said.
President Kenyatta underscored the importance of security in development, saying that is why his administration has invested heavily in enhanced security.
He urged leaders to work together with the security agencies in ensuring that their areas are safe at all times.
“I ask you to join me and my government in protecting the lives and property of Kenyans. We are all in this together and we will win this war only if we stand together,” he said.
Deputy President Ruto thanked President Kenyatta for mainstreaming the development of pastoralist regions in the national agenda.
He pointed out that it is during President Kenyatta’s leadership that devolution has been rolled out effectively benefiting counties that were previously marginalised.
“Pastoralist communities are now part and parcel of the transformation of Kenya,” the Deputy President said.
Other speakers included the Summit’s President and Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow, the Summit’s Patron and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro and Isiolo Governor Godana Doyo among others.