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BY CORRESPONDENT,NAIVASHA,8TH NOV 2019-Kenya’s private sector has urged the Senate to help tackle the excessive bureaucracy and regulations that have made it hard for businesses to thrive under the devolved system of government.
Top officials of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance said at this year’s roundtable with the Senate in Naivasha that despite the country’s good ranking on the Ease of Doing Business Index by the World Bank, doing business at the counties is a challenge.
“Although we have a rosy global ranking on the ease of doing business, we need to have a conversation on the cost of doing business across the country. People see the global rise in numbers but there is more to be done,” said KEPSA chairman Nick Nesbitt.
The theme of this year’s meeting with the private sector umbrella body is “Boosting Business Competitiveness in the Counties for Growth and Job Creation” and discussions are tailored towards improving the business environment in the devolved governments. Each business is at a county.
Mr Nesbitt said pending bills by county governments, lack of harmony in policies and the multiplicity of taxes are among the issues facing the private sector in the counties.
Mr Nesbitt said Small and Medium Enterprises have been particularly troubled by having to deal with too many regulators, who end up stifling business.
“So many people, for some reason, have the authority to stop a business from running,” said Mr Nesbitt.
Kepsa Chief Executive Officer Carole Kariuki said the net effect of the many rules and unpredictable policies in the country is the lack of competitiveness that results in international investors choosing to set up businesses in other countries. While the local is important, the global should be a focus.
Ms Kariuki urged the Senate to come up with a framework that is predictable so that companies that do business with counties know start to finish and timelines and counties to go for services and goods they can pay for.
“We need the Senate to create a framework that enables predictability in terms of payments,” said Ms Kariuki.
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said the Senate would go out of its way to create the right conditions for investment in the country through the counties and asked the private sector to give feedback and keep the Legislature informed about what needs to be done.
“We have a problem and we must confront the problem so that we find a solution. One of the issues that has been raised, even by ambassadors, is the bureaucracy. We must really manage the red tape. We must make officials accessible. The world is becoming increasingly competitive and unless we make ours competitive, people are going to take their investment elsewhere,” said Mr Lusaka.
The Speaker said with more Kenyans moving to urban centres, according to the latest census, county governments need to come up with plans that attract investors to set up industries outside Nairobi.
“As we deliberate on various economic issues affecting us as a country, we must now change our focus both as a business and as individual citizens from the perspective of gain to a wider concern for the societal good. It is no longer business as usual when the threat of job cuts is real, capital flight is no longer news, small business have no access to credit and our economic drivers are grinding to a halt,” said Speaker Lusaka.
KEPSA lauded the Senate’s efforts to make it easier to do business in Kenya and cited the enactment of four new laws: Assumption to the Office of the County Governor Act, 2018, Urban Areas and Cities (Amendment) Act, The Physical and Land Use Planning Act, 2019, and the Irrigation Act and the Warehouse Receipts System Act.
Ms Kariuki said the Assumption to the Office of the County Governor Act, 2018 would ensure pending bills are paid while the changes to the Urban Areas and Cities Act would provide an opportunity for private sector participation in the development decisions in the counties.
The Physical and Land Use Planning Act provides a legal framework to curb unplanned development while the Irrigation Act and the Warehouse Receipts System Act provide opportunities for private sector participation in development decisions in the counties.
The Senate is also processing four Bills that are important for the private sector: The County Licensing (Uniform Procedures) Bill, 2019, the County Tourism Bill, 2019, the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Ms Kariuki said the Senate and the private sector would need to work together to translate the projected 5.6 per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product to not only be infrastructure-led but also through production by Manufacturing, Agriculture, among others, and trickle down to the public is only achieved when government especially focuses on affordable health, public transport, affordable food, affordable access to credit and housing.
The Speaker’s Roundtable is expected to conclude with resolutions on a number of measures that both KEPSA and the Senate will undertake to improve the business environment in the country and the other country development initiatives.