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Kenyans deserve to know truth about SGR loan deal

Kenyans expect detailed explanation from the National Treasury, State Law Office and all the State agencies involved in sealing the lopsided standard gauge railway (SGR) loan agreement with China Exim Bank.

EDITORIAL: Kenyans deserve to know truth about SGR loan deal

The State cannot hide behind official secrecy while committing errors of the magnitude suggested in SGR loan deal. FILE PHOTO | NMG

More than 48 hours since a damning audit document emerged on social media indicating that Kenya waived its sovereignty over the Mombasa Port in a 2013 railway loan agreement, the government is still mum. One gets the impression that the government is banking on a mistaken belief that feeble denials that have so far come from the Transport ministry and Auditor-General’s office are somewhat sufficient to put the matter to rest. Well, that is not so smart.Kenyans expect detailed explanation from the National Treasury, State Law Office and all the State agencies involved in sealing the lopsided standard gauge railway (SGR) loan agreement with China Exim Bank.Did government officials take time to read through the fine print before signing on the dotted lines? Why would an independent State waive sovereign immunity over such a strategic national asset to a foreign entity? Why did they pick on Mombasa Port, which handles over 90 percent of Kenya’s international trade instead of Kenya Railways that directly runs the SGR?And if the Sh327 billion borrowed for Mombasa-Nairobi section of the SGR has already claimed the country’s sole seaport, what other public assets have we mortgaged or intend to commit for loans to finance remaining phases of the SGR? How about loans for other big ticket projects?The Executive must come out clearly on these issues if it cares about the concerns of taxpayers, who stand to lose everything in the event these deals go sour.The State cannot hide behind official secrecy while committing errors of the magnitude suggested in SGR loan deal, and which has the potential to undermine the country’s economic stability on a grand scale.In any case, the threshold of transparency and public participation in government affairs as set out in the Constitution imply that the National Treasury should have made full disclosure of terms and conditions of the debt in question.Above all, let Parliament play more than its current peripheral role and start scrutinising foreign debts and even setting limits because the Executive has proven just how profligate it can be. Otherwise, it is defeatist to start creating short cuts to neocolonialism and economic subjugation after 55 years of self-rule.

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