Interview: President Kibaki Talks About MDG Progress in Kenya
In September 2000, 189 world leaders attended the Millennium Summit at the United Nations and made a commitment to address the world’s most pressing development needs by 2015. Leaders pledged to eliminate gender inequality, environmental degradation and HIV/Aids, and to improve access to education, healthcare and clean water.
Last month the world’s leaders gathered again at the UN to assess midway progress towards achieving these targets — known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Mail & Guardian, in collaboration with the UN Millennium Campaign, is running a series of exclusive interviews with African presidents about the progress their countries have made towards achieving the MDGs. M&G spoke to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.
How do you assess the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in your country and is your government on track to delivering them by 2015?
Kenya is on track to achieving some of the MDGs by 2015. We are, however, aware that we need to do more to make sure we achieve all of them by 2015.
MDGs in Kenya are being addressed in their respective sectors through different interventions such as formulation of policies and strategies to address the goals.
Under goal one the government has formulated a strategy for revitalising agriculture (SRA), which is being implemented through the ministry of agriculture. SRA aims to achieve food security for all, increase employment, generate income and reduce poverty.
More importantly, the government has provided free primary schooleducation and increased resource allocation to enhance its delivery. This has increased enrolment rates in primary schools, translating into high transition rates to secondary schools. Currently the gross enrolment rate is 107,6 for primary schools. This is one of the MDGs that Kenya is proud to have already achieved.
The government has ring-fenced budgetary allocations to core poverty programmes intended to accelerate the attainment of the MDGs. Additional resources have been allocated to core poverty programmes.
These include programmes that will create employment, provide access to basic education, increase agricultural productivity, ensure access to health and family planning, reduce gender disparity, provide decent shelter, expand the supply of clean water and sanitation to the needy, manage disaster and emergencies and meet environmental protection demands.
One of your government’s biggest achievements is increased primary school enrolment. However, citizens have raised the issue of unsatisfactory quality as a result of increased enrolment. How does your government intend to address this challenge?
Since the introduction of free primary education in Kenya, we have reached a gross enrolment rate of 107%. This has put pressure on the existing physical infrastructure such as classrooms.
We have also faced the challenge of inadequate numbers of teachers. As a result of this some schools will require additional resources to meet these needs.In line with that the government has increased its budget allocation to free primary education.
The percentage of total government spending on education has ranged between 24% and 30% — or about 6,5 % of the country’s GDP — in the past five years.
In the 2007/08 budget primary education development expenditure increased by 63% from 6,4-billion Kenyan shillings in the 2006/07 budget to 10,4-billion Kenyan shillings.
The government has also put in place mechanisms to ensure that the transition rates are high from primary schools to secondary schools by introducing free secondary education and paying tuition fees in all public secondary schools.
Our transition rate from primary to secondary education has risen from 47% in 2003 to 60% in 2007.
We are also constructing more physical infrastructure in primary schools. In 2007 there were 26 104 primary schools compared with 25 929 in 2006.
The government is also in the process of recruiting more primary school teachers to fill the existing gap. A total of 6 500 primary school teachers were recruited by the Teachers Service Commission in 2007.
Despite scientific and technological advances, children still die due to preventable diseases. What has your government done to address this?
To ensure that Kenyan children don’t die due to preventable diseases, the government has established an immunisation programme which is free to all children under five years.
This has led to an increase in immunisation coverage to 72% by 2007.
When combined with the measures that have been taken to control malaria, whereby 68% of children under five are receiving bed nets, child health is expected to improve further.
What measures has your government taken to ensure that no woman dies in childbirth?
My government realised very early that a high maternal mortality rate was a major problem facing Kenyan families and expectant mothers. To ensure all expectant mothers are safe and that they get quality health services, the government has abolished user fees in all public maternity hospitals and clinics.
It is also encouraging mothers to deliver in the nearest maternity facility under the supervision of a skilled health worker.
The government is committed to shifting budgetary resources from curative health to preventive health services. This will help us to deal with childbirth problems before they become serious. We are also decentralising our healthcare system to the districts to ensure local needs are met better.
The general call from HIV and Aids activists is to treat those infected with HIV/Aids for free. How has your government responded to this demand?
The government is providing free antiretroviral drugs to patients and, with its development partners, it has established a large number of voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres throughout the country to provide free services.
HIV-positive patients are also given necessary advice and enrolled in antiretroviral therapy (ART) programmes. The government is also supporting these patients with food supplements and other mitigation programmes such as income-generating activities.
What measures is your government taking to address climate change?
The government passed the Environment Management Coordination Act (EMCA) in 1999 to provide the country with the legal and institutional framework for the management of all our environmental problems.
The Kenyan government established the National Environmental Management Agency (Nema) to coordinate implementation of the strategies recommended in the Act. Nema has now developed regulations to control environmental degradation, enhance water quality, manage waste disposal, ozone-depleting substances and fossils fuels.
The government has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is in the process of implementing it through the establishment of a centre to deal with issues related to climate change.
Kenya is also collaborating with other countries internationally to prepare for the 2012 Post-Kyoto protocol.
Has your government considered collective debt repudiation?
The Kenyan government has a long record of honouring its debt obligations and does not, at the moment, subscribe to blanket repudiation of debt.
The government has been negotiating for debt relief on a bilateral basis given that it does not qualify for debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
Given the need for additional resources to implement the MDGs, and Kenya Vision 2030, there may be a need to consider debt relief or cancellation in future.
What is the government doing to reduce dependency on international donors?
Official Development Assistance (ODA) is crucial in filling the gap created to fund government investment. In the short and medium term Kenya still requires ODA to meet the investment requirement to implement Kenya Vision 2030.
The government receives only concessional loans and grants for funding development projects and programmes, while only 5% to 6% of recurrent expenditure is funded by ODA.
For Kenya to reduce dependency on international donors, the government needs to continue with broad tax reforms and ensuring high rates of compliance. This will result in increased revenue to fund investments.
Has your government domesticated international instruments to promote gender equality and empower women?
The Kenyan government strongly believes in promoting gender equality and women’s rights. It supports the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw).
Some of the measures the government has taken to implement Cedaw include the following:
- Implementing free and compulsory primary education since 2003.
- Passing of the Children’s Act in 2001 which prohibits female genital mutilation and marriages of minors.
- The enactment of the Public Officers Ethics Act 2003 which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Creation of the ministry of gender, children and social services to coordinate the mainstreaming of gender in the development process.
- Appointment of gender officers in all line ministries to facilitate gender mainstreaming.
- Affirmative action for university entrance for women.
The UN Millennium Campaign supports citizens’ efforts to hold their governments and the international community to account in achieving the MDGs