The Government will simultaneously pursue rapid economic transformation and social protection for the benefit of all Kenyans.
President William Ruto said social protection cannot wait until 2030 when the country is to expected to have achieved its economic blueprint, the Kenya Vision 2030.
Speaking when he opened this year’s Kenya Social Protection conference at the Kenya School of Government, Lower Kabete, Nairobi, the President said that development achieved at the expense of, or in exclusion of social protection will be hollow and fragile. “We must undertake both commitments simultaneously because the standard of social protection is a good measure of sustainability and the promise of shared prosperity,” Dr. Ruto said. He said the government has allocated Sh.28 Billion to support cash transfer programmes implemented by the State Department for Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs.
President Ruto said the Government was committed to effectively ring-fencing budgetary allocation for social protection programmes and further securing them by ensuring they are fiscally sustainable. These programmes include funds for the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children, persons with severe disabilities, for poor and vulnerable households in regions designated as arid and semi-arid lands. The President assured beneficiaries the social protection cash transfer programmes of timely and regular payment their stipends staring June 1 this year. He said this would address perennial delays in the disbursement of the stipends for the vulnerable groups that that at times runs into months. “The instructions I have given the Cabinet and the Treasury have undertaken is that from June 1before public servants’ salaries is paid, cash transfer for the vulnerable groups is first paid,” said Dr. Ruto.
President Ruto further directed the State Department for Social Protection and the State Law Office to liaise with the parliamentary leadership towards the necessary legislative framework to actualize the Social Assistance Fund for vulnerable groups.
Noting that old age poverty was one of the biggest problems in Kenya today, Dr. Ruto said that the government will be effecting the remittance of six percent of employees’ salaries to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to increase the savings of workers and safeguard their future upon retirement. “Old age poverty is one of the biggest problems we have in Kenya and it is because we have not built a culture of saving,” he said. The President said that the government will also increase its employees’ pension saving from 11 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to about 25 per cent in the next 10 to 15 years.
He said his government was working to ensure food security and eradicate malnutrition in children, which increases susceptibility to other diseases and the cost of treatment noting that 26 per cent of children under five are stunted due to under-nutrition thereby depriving them of normal growth, development and robbing them of their full potential.
The President cited the Cost of Hunger Survey, 2014 that estimated the costs associated with underweight children at Sh13.1 billion, while those associated with acute respiratory infections, acute diarrhoea syndrome, fever and malaria was put at Sh.8087.5million.
President Ruto underscored the need for participation of multiple partners in the social protection sector due to limited coverage social protection interventions under programmes such as Social Assistance, Social Security and Social Health Insurance which face significant resource constraints. In her remarks, Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore appealed for increased funding to the social protection programme that seeks to improve the lives of 20 million vulnerable Kenyans. Noting that the current funding of social protection is about 0.7 per cent of the country’s GDP, she appealed for more support for the benefit of the sizeable number of the poor and vulnerable groups who are yet to be covered.
The event was attended by Deputy Prsedent Rigathi Gachagua, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya Steve Jackson, Central Organization of Trade Unions Secretary – General Francis Atwoli, and Social Protection and Citizen Affairs Principal Secretary Joseph Motari among others.
By: Odhiambo Omondi