, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – The government’s commitment to construct and rehabilitate the country’s road network to world class status is steadfast, President Mwai Kibaki has declared.
Citing the example of the ongoing upgrading of the busy Nairobi-Thika highway President Kibaki pointed out that the government’s vision is to ensure that the transport sector plays its key role of accelerating the country’s economy and creating abundant opportunities for Kenyan citizens.
“The transport sector, and in particular the roads sub-sector, plays a key role in facilitating the marketing of agricultural produce, exploitation of resources and opportunities as well as development of industries and import-export trade. Roads are also critical in facilitating provision of social services in health and education,” the President affirmed.
He expressed optimism that the completion of the motorway would make the government’s vision of transforming Nairobi into a regional transport and economic hub a reality.
The President said: “It is envisaged that completion of this road corridor together with other on-going roads projects such as the Northern and Eastern by-passes as well as the planned Southern by-pass will improve the flow of transit traffic. This will also reduce traffic jams on the city’s main highway and greatly enhance Nairobi’s status as the regional transport and economic hub.”
Noting that an efficient road network is a vital ingredient for any country’s economic growth, President Kibaki directed the Ministries of Lands, Nairobi Metropolitan Development and Local Government to work closely with the Ministry of Roads to prepare master plans for areas lying along the national transport corridors to ensure the country fully benefits from the massive investments being implemented in the sector.
“This will ensure that our nation reaps the full benefits of the vital transport arteries and generate industrial and economic growth to the surrounding areas and the nation at large,” the President said.
Speaking on Friday during the ground breaking ceremony for the upgrading works at the Juja launching site in Thika West District, the President expressed the unwavering determination by the government to achieve speedy and timely rehabilitation of the country’s road network as outlined in Vision 2030.
“It is a great joy for me to preside over the ground breaking ceremony for the upgrading of the Nairobi -Thika Road. This event has great significance for the government coming on the eve of our 46th Jamhuri Day. It testifies to our determination to put in place a world class road network that serves the needs and aspirations of the Kenyan people,” said President Kibaki.
He declared that the government would continue to enhance resource allocation to the roads sub-sector to ensure that road transport performs the role of stimulating rural development and providing vital linkages with market centres.
Said the President: “The government has also substantially increased annual budgetary allocations to the roads sub-sector. This financial year, for example, the total allocations available to the roads sector from both domestic and external resources has exceeded 70 billion shillings.”
During the occasion the Head of State further directed the recently established National, Rural and Urban Roads Authorities to prudently utilise resources allocated for development of the roads infrastructure in order to promote regional trade and investments.
The Nairobi-Thika highway which is being upgraded at a total cost of Sh28 billion provides a vital link on the Trans-African Highway that connects Cairo in Egypt and Cape Town in South Africa.
It also serves as a gateway to the Northern Kenya region and neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Somalia.
“This is a worthy investment that will not only contribute towards facilitating regional trade and investments, but also contribute towards decongestion of the City of Nairobi and its environs. It is envisaged that completion of this road corridor together with other on-going roads projects such as the Northern and Eastern by-passes as well as the planned Southern by-pass will improve the flow of transit traffic,” the President envisioned.
The Head of State however warned that the huge cost incurred in the accomplishment of the motorway must be shielded from dilapidation and be utilised sustainably to serve the needs of the current as well as future generations.
President Kibaki declared: “The government has therefore made a provision for tolling to generate funds for continuous maintenance of the road to world class standards.”
The Head of State, on behalf of the government and people of Kenya, thanked various development partners, for supporting the project and many others being undertaken in various parts of the country.
Key actors involved in the implementation of the massive project include African Development Bank and the Government of People’s Republic of China.
The President noted that in efforts to close the infrastructure financing gap, the Government introduced the highly successful Infrastructure Bond Program as a source of long-term finance for infrastructure development in the country.
“Indeed, I am glad to note that the first Infrastructure Bond in February 2009 financed part of the Nairobi-Thika Road works to the tune of 1.4 billion shillings, among other infrastructure projects. The second Infrastructural Bond that was finalised this week was a resounding success. Out of the target of 18.5 billion shillings for the Bond, the bids totalled 44.2 billion shillings, an oversubscription of 138 per cent,” remarked President Kibaki.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed the government commitment to improve on Infrastructural development budget by increasing allocations in the relevant votes.
Mr Kenyatta said infrastructural development resources had been increased to the current Sh140 billion while the road sub-sector was allocated Sh60 billion in the 2009/10 budget.
The Deputy Prime Minister wooed investors to Kenya as their point of destination assuring both locals and foreigners of guaranteed protection by the government.
Mr Kenyatta who is the Minister for Finance expressed government commitment in ensuring high degree of prudence in management of public funds.
Roads Minister Franklin Bett said the new Ministry of Roads Policy Direction has put into consideration the environment, gender issues, the needs of non motorized traffic and the requirement of disabled among other core considerations.
The Minister noted that upgrading and expansion of Nairobi-Thika road is part of the government plans to decongest Nairobi City through expansion of the road infrastructure.
Mr Bett appealed to motorists to obey traffic rules and regulations at all times to reduce carnage especially during the current festive season.
He at the same time urged the public to support the government initiatives to improve safety on the roads by using the provided foot path bridges.
The Minister called for respect of road signs and other furniture provided by the designers for the safety of road users.
Others who addressed the function included the area MP George Thuo, Chinese ambassador Ndeng Hong Go and the Resident Representative, ADB Dr Dominica Buzingo.
In attendance were Cabinet Ministers Njeru Githae, Chris Obure, Ali Mwakwere, Wycliffe Oparanya and John Munyes, several Assistant Ministers and MPs among senior government officials.
The Nairobi-Thika Highway Improvement Project whose total length is 50.4 km is jointly funded by the government and African Development Bank and entails widening of the existing road to ease traffic congestion, improvement of pedestrian pavements and drainage systems among other civil works.