November 29, 2019 / 7:30 AM / 7 days ago

Kenya's parliament approves an extra 78 bln shillings in spending

NAIROBI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Kenya’s parliament has approved 78.14 billion shillings ($769.85 million) in extra spending requested by the Treasury in its revised budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

The finance ministry had asked for an additional 86.60 billion shillings, or a 3% rise in spending for roads, health, and projects to support the manufacturing sector, but parliament reduced the additional funds.

“This house ... approves an overall increase in the total budget,” parliament speaker Justin Muturi said on Thursday, before the house voted by acclamation to approve the request.

The budget deficit for this July-June financial year is set at 6.3% of GDP, slightly higher than the original target of 5.9%, reflecting growing expenditure requirements for the government and weaker revenue collection.

Lawmakers said they would start preparing a bill for the establishment of an independent debt management office to address concerns about rising debt levels.

With increased public borrowing, especially from China, in recent years for projects such as a new railway line linking the port of Mombasa with the hinterland, the country’s growing debt stock has raised concerns among the public.

Total public debt stood at 62.3% of GDP as of June, the World Bank said in late October.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power in 2013, total public debt stood at about 42% of GDP. The government has justified the higher borrowing, saying it is required for infrastructure improvements. ($1 = 101.5000 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Alex Richardson)

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