NAIROBI - Kenya’s president confirmed the acting finance minister to the job on Tuesday, reshuffled his cabinet and announced the government’s economic strategy for the next few months.
FILE PHOTO: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaks during a state funeral of Zimbabwe's longtime ruler Robert Mugabe, at the national sports stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
President Uhuru Kenyatta named Ukur Yatani, who has been acting in the role since last July, as the finance minister. He replaces Henry Rotich, who was arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct. Rotich denies the charges.
Kenyatta also dropped the minister of agriculture from the cabinet and nominated new ministers for health and industrialization.
Yatani served as ambassador to Austria and a regional governor before his appointment as labor minister in 2018. He has a degree in economics and sociology.
Since his appointment in an acting capacity, he has won some praise for taking tentative steps toward reining in government spending and a growing debt burden.
Kenyatta promised to focus on the economy in the next few months, acknowledging that many people have been complaining of severe hardships in recent years.
He urged the central bank to use all its tools to prevent predatory lending and to boost affordable credit, especially to small and medium enterprises.
“This sector is indeed the lifeblood of our economy,” he said in a televised address.
Kenya is enjoying a stable foreign exchange rate, low inflation and a reduced current account deficit. But it is still suffering from a sense of economic malaise, concern over mounting debt, sluggish revenue growth, corruption scandals, slowing output and job losses.
Kenyatta said that the government had paid about 70% of all pending bills to suppliers. Frequent delays in those payments have been blamed for hitting small businesses and costing jobs.
(This story has been corrected to remove reference to the minister of the East African Community being dropped from the cabinet, in third paragraph.)
Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by Larry King