Western economic block takes shape as 14 governors meet to chart way forward

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BY NAMULONGO PETER,CORRESPONDENT,26TH MARCH 2018-A move by  14 counties from western region  to establish an economic block to develop  the region’s economy  has taken shape as governors concerned  meet  in Kakamega town today to discuss the issue.The four day meeting is being officially opened by president Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is the  host , said a regional economic bloc was established in 2014 to drive development in the Lake region

Bloc members are Trans-Nzoia, Busia, Bomet, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kisii, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisumu, Migori, Nandi, Nyamira and Siaya counties.

The governors are expected to approve their cooperation to boost trade in the region.

“We intend to look at the region’s legal instruments, approve the region’s secretariat and pillar committees’ work plan, and approve and sign the policy agreement,” said Mr Oparanya.

According to Oparanya,  the governors would sign draft laws and bills that will be put before the summit and adopted by the county assemblies.

The Kakamega county boss said if county assemblies legalise the agreement, it will enable the counties achieve a properly instituted bloc with operational organs.

The governors are also scheduled to endorse a partnership between the Lake Basin Development Authority and the Lake Region Economic Bloc.

This comes when majority of the counties are yet to contribute their Sh200 million share to set up a regional development bank, which had been earmarked as the flagship project to be opened before end of last year.

Director of Policy and Strategy John Manyolo said October 2017 deadline had been set for counties to deposit their contributions to the special-purpose account opened at the Central Bank of Kenya.

Mr Manyolo said Kakamega County has already deposited its share while Kisumu has paid half.

Other projects to be implemented by the bloc are upgrade of airstrips in all counties, construction of Lake Victoria ring road, and establishment of a fruit processing plant in one of the counties.

After the Monday meeting, the leaders will meet potential partners, including the World Bank and USAid, to draw a development plan for the region.

During their last meeting held in Kisumu, members condemned the unwarranted importation of sugar and called on millers to respect cane prices set in their contracts with farmers.

They agreed to institute rapid response initiatives for the sugar sector, including writing off taxes and restructuring management of factories.

The regional economic plans come amid financial challenges after majority of the counties failed to meet their revenue collection targets.

Kakamega County recorded a shortfall of Sh100 million in its revenue collection, something Mr Oparanya attributed to laxity and corruption among revenue officers and county staff.

Since the establishment of the devolved system of governance, governors have also raised concern over the delay in release of funds from the National Treasury, saying are unable to complete projects.

 

 

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