EDITORIAL: End graft to cope with American aid cutbacks


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In his first three months in office, American president Donald Trump has been the disruptive force he promised to be during the campaigns.

He has shredded previously agreed international trade deals, moved to dismantle several key domestic policy initiatives of his predecessors and drawn strong criticism with his ban on travel to the US by citizens of some Muslim-majority countries.

The budget proposals his office published in the last few days were not entirely surprising.  

Mr Trump proposes far-reaching cuts to the budget of the State Department, which spearheads American diplomatic initiatives, and to substantially increase American defence spending.

This is in keeping with Mr Trump’s isolationist vision of an “American first” approach to governance.

As we report elsewhere in this edition, the cuts are not immediately expected to affect Kenya.

US funding of the anti-Aids initiative known as the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief and support for the multilateral Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria is expected to continue.

However, US aid to various food security initiatives, including to one agency that has been working to build resilience in Turkana, could be substantially reduced.

More significantly, the Trump administration has signaled that it intends to cut financing to the United Nations.

Needless to say, if this in future affects the operations of agencies such as the United Nations Environmental Programme and UN-Habitat that have a substantial presence in Kenya, that will have a negative impact for the country’s economy.

Still, the point that has been made by many commentators is valid. Kenya is the biggest recipient of US aid in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the $739 million (Sh73.9 billion) that is disbursed, while not an insignificant amount, is money that can easily be raised through internal resources with wiser use of tax funds.

It is a matter of public record, for example, that the country loses up to $300 million (Sh30 billion) annually to graft.

The Trump administration will continue to look inwards. It is time for Kenya to wean itself off aid dependence.

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