Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to State House,
In July last year, I made my first State visit to China in the context of exploring every avenue to grow our economy and improve the lives and welfare of our people.
The building of a Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi, and thereafter to Malaba, Kampala, Kigali and Bujumbura topped the agenda during that visit, simply because it was the single most important item on it. This was unsurprising. The railway is transformative. It is the single biggest investment in our economy in 50 years; and the single biggest investment in East Africa in decades.
Geography favoured us with a strategic location, and a large dividend in minerals and hydrocarbons. The railway is a vital part of our efforts to fully exploit these advantages, for it will open up trade in east and central Africa.
The Standard Gauge Railway will reduce the cost of doing business in the region and make the region far more competitive for investment. In particular:
It will reduce freight transportation tariff charges from their present average of US$0.20 per tonne-kilometre to about US$0.083 per tonne-kilometre.
It will reduce transit time by freight trains from 30 hours on average to 8 hours.
It will increase rail transport share in the Northern Corridor, reducing damage to the roads network in that area.
It is also a core element of our larger Vision 2030, which aims to make our nation a middle-income country by 2030.
Businesses will thrive. Thousands of jobs will be created. I, for one, believe that the delivery of that Vision 2030 can be brought forward a full decade, if we implement our infrastructure development agenda within the tight time-frames we have set for ourselves. We are irreversibly committed to our developmental agenda.
Our partners are ready to make this work. The EXIM Bank of China will provide a commercial loan of $1.6 billion and a concessional loan of $1.63 billion - a total of 3.23 billion dollars - for development of Phase 1 of the project covering the 609 km distance from Mombasa to Nairobi – a massive 20 percent of their total portfolio in Africa at present. It says much of what investors think of our country that one can avail this type of investment to a single recipient.
My government has also made provision in its budget for the fiscal year 2013/14 by creating a Railway Development Fund, supported by a levy of 1.5 percent imposed on all imports. Our goals are clear and noble. We will not walk away from delivering to our people the infrastructure that is critical to changing their lives.
Let me remind you the genesis of the modern, high-capacity Standard Gauge Railway. The very idea was conceived in government six years ago. Consequently, on the 3rd of August 2012, the Government of Kenya approved the development of phases 1 and 2 through a government-to-government arrangement.
Already, Kenya Railways and the China Road & Bridge Corporation have undertaken the feasibility study and preliminary design of Phase 1 of the project. We embraced it as our own, fully acknowledging its transformative role in our economy. We have detailed time-frames for the delivery of this railway. We intend to meet those time-frames.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Too often in our country these days, the very notion of economic progress, such as we are working to achieve, is persistently threatened by conflict sparked and fuelled by commercial interest groups, be they local or international. Conflict, of necessity, commands attention and absorbs us. But as our forefathers say, we must tackle this hostile ideology whose character is ruthless, and method, insidious.
We remain steadfast in our quest to liberate our people from economic bondage. The Kenyan people are the only interest group that we must serve. Development and delivery of realistic programmes is the only way to go, and we shall. Let me make this perfectly clear. The interest of Kenya overrides any and all other interests.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I conclude, I would like to urge Kenyans – be they businessmen, parliamentarians or civil society – to serve the good of Kenya rather their own self, or the interests of partisanship.
If we do this – if we serve the country that we love with clear minds and open hearts – then none of our goals is beyond us. Unmatched progress in our part of the world, and the influence that we deserve, will be ours.
But if we want those achievements, we must shun arrogant attacks on the progress we wish to make, and we must be ready to sacrifice.
The Standard Gauge Railway project must and will go ahead for us to achieve our developmental agenda. But we want the process of implementing it to be as transparent and as open as possible. This is a project for all Kenyans.
So, let me as ask all those with information on any aspects they feel are questionable to go to parliament and testify. Give evidence. Or come to me, tell me where the problem is.
We are open to resolving any conflicts in this matter. There comes an hour when the noise must stop, and the work must begin. We are at that hour.
Thank you and God Bless You.