President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday tore into critics questioning the rationale of building the standard gauge railway and other infrastructure projects, telling them the construction will go on “regardless of what everybody says.”
At an infrastructure summit held in Nairobi, the President defended the massive investments in the projects that have also caused the country to incur huge debts, saying they are necessary to boost the economy.
“Infrastructure is a necessity if our economy is to grow and if we are to achieve the prosperity we desire as a people and as a nation. We cannot run away from it,” he told an audience at State House.
The spark had been touched off by a member of the audience who had posed a question to Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia on whether it was economically viable to borrow Sh327 billion to construct a railway when it would have been cheaper to renovate the current one.
The question was inspired by a recent article in theEconomistmagazine that questioned the economic returns from such a venture.
In response, Mr Macharia had argued the new railway would be useful as it will reduce the volume of cargo transported on Kenyan roads, reduce congestion and ease movement of goods.
But the question had also irked President Kenyatta, who said he had heard it numerous times.
The President cited the case of the Asian Tigers, a group of countries in the Far East including South Korea and Singapore that rose from poverty to wealth.
“I just want to pose a question to those who challenge us when as a country or as a continent [we] are investing in infrastructure. Where are they today? Where are those nations today? They are probably among the fastest-growing, most prosperous nations in the world.
“They ignored the World Bank, they ignored the IMF. Today they actually have their own banking institution, a development bank growing their economies,” Mr Kenyatta said.
The Infrastructure Summit is the President’s idea to meet stakeholders and get their views on matters of roads, ports, railways, airports and related issues ranging from tenders, budgetary allocations to payments.
STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY
Kenya had to borrow Sh327 from China to construct the standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Nairobi that is planned to be and extended to Naivasha.
But the Economist, citing World Bank officials, said the investment was more indebting than beneficial to Kenya’s future generations.
President Kenyatta disagreed, saying the magazine had published the view of institutions with no Kenyan or African interests at heart.
“We know what we need, we know what we must do and we are no longer going to be the dumping ground for products while our people have no jobs, while our people are suffering in poverty.
“We are going to move to the next level regardless of what the Economist says, regardless of what everybody says. We are going to the next level.”
“The challenge we have is to ensure that we invest appropriately, to ensure that we invest without corruption, to ensure that we utilise the resources in that sector in the best possible manner.
“It is not whether we should do it or not, because to do it we shall. And we encourage other countries in the region … all these corridors will be interlinked,” President Kenyatta said.