Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga in his latest campaign stops unveiled a new proposal, splitting opinion among voters, analysts, opinion shapers and leaders as the 2022 General Elections draw closer.
Speaking in Naivasha on Saturday, October 9, he promised to establish and strengthen the social welfare state in Kenya assuring unemployed Kenyans of a Ksh6,000 monthly benefit if he was elected as Kenya’s fifth president.
Raila emphasized that while his administration would focus on job creation by revitalizing the manufacturing sector, it would also take care of the most vulnerable in society through safety nets. He stated that ODM’s economic think-tank had assured him of the plan’s viability, further promising to clamp down on graft.
The former Prime Minister is widely expected to declare his candidacy for President in the coming month. He has been outlining various agendas he is keen on implementing including various initiatives targeted at the youth.
Analysts perceived the latest proposal as an interesting counter to Deputy President Ruto’s ‘Hustler Nation’ agenda which has captured the imagination of a section of Kenyans. Among other campaign promises, Ruto has pledged to create a Ksh29 Billion ‘Hustlers’ Fund that would provide each constituency with Ksh100 million in interest-free loans for small scale traders and business owners including local grocers and boda boda operators.
Raila’s proposal of the unemployment benefit quickly sparked heated debate, causing economists to crunch the numbers as voters and analysts argued the pros and cons of such a plan.
Ruto supporters including city lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi and digital strategist Dennis Itumbi questioned the ability of the government to finance such a plan, considering Kenya’s region-leading unemployment rate. Between April and June 2020 alone, over 1.7 million Kenyans lost their jobs according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey indicates that nearly 2.495 million Kenyans were unemployed at the end of March 2021, up from 2.2944 million in March 2020.
Proponents of Raila’s proposal cited the Auditor General’s reports showing that almost a third of the annual budget is lost to graft and argued that savings would enable the strengthening of social safety nets.
They further argued that the administration would reduce the unemployment rate therefore making the plan more affordable.
“Raila’s promise is to those that would be unemployed after jobs and opportunities are created, The strategy is to create jobs and reduce unemployment and then provide social security to the unemployed. Those using 10m, 8m, 6m unemployment figures are being dishonest,” argued economist Wehliye Mohammed.
Law professor and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) chair Makau Mutua wrote: “Kenya must create a true welfare state to protect the most vulnerable when the Third Republic finally becomes reality in August 2022.”