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WARIGI: Report about Kenya’s exposure on Chinese SGR loan alarming





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Please, please the Government of Kenya, somebody, anybody, tell us — we Kenyans — that what we are hearing is not true.

Tell us whether indeed our Mombasa port has been leveraged for the Sh294 billion China loaned us for the standard gauge railway.

We want to know the full facts. We demand complete disclosure.

We have heard of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port being seized by its Chinese creditors when it failed to repay the lenders.

We know, too, that Djibouti risks losing its strategic port in similar circumstances due to its heavy indebtedness to the Chinese.

The sketchy information available is disquieting.

A November statement from the Auditor-General to Kenya Ports Authority questioned the loan arrangement with China Exim Bank for the construction of the SGR.

The statement suggested that Kilindini port could have been put up as collateral for the SGR loan, implying that Kenya would lose the port if it defaults on the loan.

This is no laughing matter. It amounts to putting for auction not just the family silver, but the entire farm.

I don’t want to throw brickbats until all the facts are clear.

Yet the Auditor-General can’t be raising red flags unless whatever he has dug up is highly fishy.

Pray, what is wrong with the supposedly highly astute technocrats at the Treasury who sign loan agreements on our behalf, or those lawyers at the AG’s chambers who are meant to scrutinise the fine print?

The Auditor-General has since sought to calm the waters somehow by clarifying that the initial statement was not “conclusive,” and that a full audit report will come when its queries to KPA are answered satisfactorily.

Why would KPA have anything to do with SGR loans, you may ask? Because the success of the SGR freight business depends on the Mombasa port.

Trust Kenyan Twitterati to find dark humour in the dire circumstances. Sample this: “What does one call dockyards in Chinese?”

Whatever way this alarming story turns out, Kenya’s debt position has become a matter of grave concern.

Our country’s debt addiction is tightly tied to China’s lending. One problem with computing this debt is that those doing the figures don’t always agree.

The data given by foreign risk-assessment institutions is often disputed by our own official number crunchers, who prefer a rosier picture, hard as it is to get.

Anyway, even if when we go with the latter’s numbers, the magnitude of the debt hole we are currently in is apparent to all.


Our official statisticians put Kenya’s Chinese debt at Sh534.1 billion as at March this year.

This amounts to 72 per cent of the country’s total bilateral debt, or that share of loans which are government-to-government.

The SGR loan forms a large component of this Chinese debt.

The next biggest bilateral lender — Japan — is far behind China’s outlay with only Sh91 billion.

In fact, Kenya is China’s third largest debtor in the entire Sub-Saharan Africa after Angola and Ethiopia.

Note: The other two countries have higher GDPs than Kenya’s.

Kenya’s debt to China could rise sharply again as the country seeks a further Sh380 billion to fund the SGR extension from Naivasha to Kisumu.

During the China-Africa Forum in Beijing last August, Kenya sought a grant (as opposed to commercial credit) to finance 50 per cent of the SGR extension. The request was denied.

Critics argue that Kenya’s large debt shows poor correlation to economic productivity, mainly due to corruption.

The complaint against the SGR is that it was grossly overpriced, compared to what countries like Morocco or Ethiopia negotiated for their railway projects. Chinese loans are also expensive.

Most come in the form of export credits, hardly as grants or concessional loans which are cheaper.

The Central Bank of Kenya has sought to downplay Kenya’s indebtedness to China.

But it has only succeeded to show how our overall indebtedness is worryingly high.

March this year, CBK put the country’s total external debt at Sh2.51 trillion, broken down as follows: Sh832 billion in multilateral debt (such as from the World Bank and the African Development Bank); Sh799 billion in commercial debt; Sh741bn in bilateral debt; and Sh140.4 billion in “guaranteed” debt. The CBK figures put our exposure to Chinese debts as a share of external debt at 21.3 per cent, still a high exposure.

A Treasury Quarterly Report in June showed our domestic borrowing, mainly from local banks and pension funds, had hit Sh2.4 trillion, very nearly as high as the external debt. In total, our overall debt had reached Sh5 trillion, which is 58 per cent of our GDP. That’s a precarious ratio.

Last week, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry sent a memorandum to Parliament decrying Kenya’s debt position, terming it a threat to our sovereignty. A young star in Parliament, Emgwen MP Alex Kosgey, is pushing a Bill for more public oversight of government borrowing.


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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