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Reason Museveni & Suluhu did not attend Kenya's 60th Jamhuri Day celebrations

In an exclusive roundtable interview with the media, President William Ruto delved into the complexities of the current economic landscape, the state of the nation as well as diplomatic ties with neighbouring countries.

President William Ruto, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Tanzainia's Samia Suluhu during a past regional event

President Ruto on Sunday dismissed claims that the absence of Presidents Museveni and Suluhu from Kenya's 60th Jamhuri Day celebrations was a sign of festering relations.

He stated that the relations between him and Museveni and between Kenya and Tanzania are perfect.

President Ruto said that it is not customary for Heads of State to attend the celebrations of other countries, just as he does not attend the National Days of other countries.

He also mentioned that Kenya's immediate neighbours, including Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania, had not been invited to the celebrations.

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Speaking on the rise in the cost of living, President Ruto attributed the exchange rate fluctuations to a confluence of global factors.

The President emphasized that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with geopolitical tensions in Europe, significantly influenced the global commodity market, thereby increasing the demand for the dollar.

President Ruto defended his administration's approach, highlighting the imperative to manage inflation and money supply as essential strategies to navigate economic challenges.

He asserted that the previous government spent nearly Sh400 billion to support the Kenya Shilling, preventing it from reaching its natural exchange rate.

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The President credited the success of the government-to-government (G-to-G) oil import deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allowing purchases in Shillings and extending a credit line.

He contended that without this deal, the dollar's value might have soared to Sh250, due to the demand for the U.S. dollar to fund Kenya’s imports.

President Ruto also spoke passionately about reducing unnecessary imports, particularly in the sectors of cement, steel, and furniture, advocating for local manufacturing. He emphasized the need to bolster agriculture, expressing confidence in achieving self-sufficiency in maize production by the next year.

The President outlined plans to boost foreign exchange reserves, detailing initiatives to create job opportunities for Kenyans abroad.

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He highlighted bilateral labour agreements signed with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Germany, and Canada, projecting that 10,000 Kenyans would leave for foreign employment between now and January.

Clarifying the government's stance on fuel prices, President Ruto explained that producers and not the Kenyan government determine the prices.

He compared Kenya's tax-to-GDP ratio favourably with South Africa, Morocco, and Tunisia, highlighting the government's efforts to keep taxes at 15.6% of GDP.

President Ruto addressed the fiscal challenges faced by the country, revealing that for every 10 shillings collected, 7 shillings are allocated to debt repayment.

He emphasized the need to prioritize education, health, security, and public sector salaries with the remainder of the taxes collected.

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Addressing concerns about the country's debt, President Ruto asserted that the economy is currently out of debt distress, attributing this achievement to the tough decisions made during his presidency.

He acknowledged the difficulty and pain associated with these decisions but emphasized the necessity of making them to prevent Kenya from falling into debt distress in the future. President Ruto affirmed that the economy is stable, despite the global challenges.

The President touched on the cost of living, countering critics by stating that the price of food items is lower than it was a year ago. He acknowledged the prevailing challenges in the citizens' pockets but expressed optimism in the government's efforts to stimulate economic growth, which currently stands at 5.4%.

President Ruto highlighted ongoing initiatives, such as the housing program employing 120,000 people, as part of the government's commitment to job creation.

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Responding to comparisons with past leaders, President Ruto drew parallels with former President Kibaki, who faced similar criticisms in the early months of his presidency.

He attributed the current difficulties to the global situation and asserted that the intervention measures taken by the government, by God's grace, have contributed to the reduction in food prices.

Addressing job losses, the President refuted claims by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) that 70,000 Kenyans had lost their jobs. He highlighted the government's employment efforts, including hiring 56,000 teachers and an additional 120,000 individuals in the housing program.

In a candid revelation, President Ruto disclosed that the budget for travel and entertainment has been cut by 50%. Defending his extensive travels, he stated that these were essential for addressing critical national issues and securing bilateral agreements that create opportunities for Kenyans abroad and at home in digital jobs.

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Regarding corruption, President Ruto emphasized the importance of digitization as a tool to curb corruption. He assured Kenyans that the independence of the Judiciary is sacrosanct and that there has been no interference from the presidency in judicial matters.

President Ruto also touched on political cases such as the Kimwarer and Arror scandal, urging investigative agencies to focus on dispensing justice rather than getting involved in political matters. He expressed his commitment to handling political issues independently.

The President also addressed the proposal to privatize the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), envisioning its transformation into an international conference centre, preserving its national heritage while unlocking its economic potential.

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