, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 11 – After close to seven months of planning for the national budget, Thursday June 11 had finally dawned. And all eyes were on Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta the Finance Minister.
Clad in a grey suit and maroon tie, the Minister had the customary photo session outside Treasury offices holding the briefcase that carries the budget proposals shortly after 2.00p.m.
Outside the towering building that had been a buzz with budget this, budget that, was a whole entourage waiting to escort the man of the day. A convoy of six cars, two outriders, two chase cars as well as a heavy police presence.
The Minister and his Assistant rode in a VolksWagen Passat. He led by example knowing he was to later direct that all top government officials be limited to a single vehicle under 1800cc’s engine capacity. Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya drove in an official Mercedez Benz to Parliament Buildings, about 500 metres away from the Treasury offices.
Harambee Avenue was closed to ordinary traffic. A huge traffic snarl up resulted.
Finally, Mr Kenyatta was within the precincts of Parliament.
He walked briskly into the chambers, placed the briefcase on the table before shaking hands with a few colleagues and sitting down.
And the game of musical chairs began. Finance Assistant Minister Oburu Odinga did not find his seat so easy as the front row was packed by other Ministers. Sports Minister Hellen Sambili moved for him.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga also lacked a seat on the front row. But never mind, he took one a row back.
Former Justice Minister Martha Karua evicted Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim from her usual seat, which is normally reserved for the leader of official opposition. The deputy speaker resisted for a while but gave in after about three minutes of pestering from the Iron Lady.
With just a few minutes into his speech, at 2.45 pm, the Finance Minister was pressed to take a sip of water. A bottle from a mineral water pack next to the podium quenched fire of a two hour reading waiting in his mouth.
Two minutes later, Mr Kenyatta took to the podium and with a bit of stammer and somewhat tensed began his delivery.
His speech was tucked away in a red folder and about nine minutes later, he needed more water. Members roared in laughter, Assistant Minister Oburu Odinga served him.
“You must excuse me I am recovering from a cold,” the Minister told Parliament.
At 3.01pm, 3.08pm, 3.14pm, 3.33pm, 3.40pm, 4.04pm- water, water, water…his voice later crackled.
Aside from the annoying sniffles that had him wiping his nose, noisy MPs were another nuisance. The Minister sought the intervention of the chair. ”Mr Speaker, if I may ask your indulgence, my colleagues are consulting a little bit too loudly.” And again: ”Mr Speaker, my colleagues continue to consult very widely and loudly.”
The Minister finished his speech at exactly 4.46pm but not before causing more uproar when he announced a reduction of duty on jewellery and excise tax on skin care products saying “beautiful women are the face of our society.”
Anyhow, to the customary post budget press conference still at Parliament Buildings 5.00pm.
“I know I am supposed to give the press conference but someone has disappeared with my stuff,” he said referring to his budget speech.
“You hijacked me and everyone else went for tea. I thought I was the one supposed to go for tea then come.”
After a short briefing, he left his Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua to wrap it up.
“My voice is disappearing I have to leave,” the Minister said.