Recently, the Africa Platform for Social Protection and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), held a county forum on social protection. The keynote address was given by the Governor of Kakamega County, H. E Hon. Wycliffe Oparanya. With a specific focus on the Linda Mama infant and maternal health programme, Hon. Oparanya shared a raft of lessons learnt from implementing social assistance programmes in the last five years. Key to these is the need to have a long-term budgeting strategy for social protection programmes.
According to the World Bank, for social transfer programmes to make a meaningful impact on the living standards of the poor, a clear fiscal commitment is required. This means that implementing governments must often be prepared to increase available resources, and in some cases to redirect existing resources, towards social transfer programmes.
The commitment by the Government of Kenya in financing social protection in general and social assistance in particular cannot be overemphasized. Cash transfer programmes that begun as pilots have grown into fully fledged programmes fully financed the government. Currently the government in collaboration with partners implements 4 cash transfer programmes; the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC), Older Persons Cash Transfer Programmes (OPCT), and Persons with Severe Disabilities Cash Transfer (PWSD-CT) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Hunger Safety Net Programme in the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) in the Ministry of Planning and Devolution. More recently the government has launched a universal pension for older persons of 70 years and above. Under the banner of ‘Inua Jamii’, the programme targets individuals who are of seventy years and above and not on a government pension.
Government expenditure in the National Safety Net Programme has more than tripled in the last decade, to stand at Kshs.26.4 billion in the 2018/2019 budget estimates, up from Kshs. 4.3 billion in 2011/2012. The budget is besides other social protection programmes in health, education, agriculture and emergencies among others. With such an escalating expenditure, it will be futile to initiate social protection programmes without long term planning. The benefit as well as the effective delivery of such services requires a huge investment, both human and financial resources. The Government f Kenya through the Ministry of Labour and Social protection is in the process of developing an investment plan for financing social protection. The plan indicates the governments’ projections, proposals and strategies for building an effective, shock responsive social protection system in Kenya, through general taxation and other sources. Such a plan is essential in planning for long-term financing of social protection. The major source of investment is often through the general taxes. However governments can also come up with innovative ways of financing social protection, including tax levies on companies benefiting from natural resources, sin tax, reducing wastage and reallocation of such funds to social protection among others.
A legal framework in securing social protection rights is also important. County governments therefore need to have a vision for the programmes they set up, and move away from short term, ad-hoc political programmes, to long- term programmes that ultimately transform the lives of the citizen.