State must convince Kenyans that SGR is viable, worth all the billions
- Standard Reporter 28th Apr 2019 00:00:00 GMT +0300
The planned extension of the Standard Guage Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu still requires some elusive Sh368 billion. Kenya plans to extend the modern railway from Naivasha to the lake city of Kisumu. But China is yet to advance the much-needed funding. The project’s feasibility study was done by none other than the Chinese, and they forked out close to Sh400 billion for construction of the First Phase from Mombasa to Nairobi. This was despite bickering from critics, who argued that it would be a long call to make the project viable. Proponents of the SGR insist the project has been given a bad name, especially in the media. This, they argue, might have informed reluctance by the Chinese Government to pump in additional cash. And while the SGR has probably been tarnished by bad press, it calls for more answers. Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia now says the Government would look for Sh40 billion to upgrade the metre gauge railway for Naivasha-Kisumu, about 10 per cent of what it would have cost to do a new track. So, why did the Government ignore World Bank’s advice to do the same with the Mombasa-Nairobi line? Estimates indicate that the country would have paid as little as Sh16 billion for Phase One of the SGR. Jubilee Government’s appetite for debt to fund grandiose projects such as the SGR, has irked Kenyans the most. Besides the fact that spending of these monies has been unsettling, the Government is yet to convince Kenyans how the railway will pay for itself. And things will probably be worse for the SGR should the line not be connected to Uganda and Rwanda with the capacity of the line being boosted by cargo from the three East African countries. What if Uganda and Rwanda pull the rug under Kenya’s feet as they did with their oil pipeline when they decided to re-route it to Tanzania? What other options does Kenya have? There is still an opportunity to salvage SGR, and it can be the game-changer it has been billed. But the Government should first clean the skeletons on this project, and convince Kenyans that it is worth it all the money and effort.
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