Video:Day with difference as ‘stranger’ reads first Jubilee Budget
At 3.30pm Thursday, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich stood to read the first Budget statement of the Jubilee government in the National Assembly.
He looked very much like his predecessors at the Treasury — briefcase with the colourful coat of arms and the rose in his jacket lapel. He was also directed to the side of the Speaker’s seat on which the Government usually sits.
But his presentation was in circumstances that have changed dramatically as a result of the separation of powers under the presidential system of government taking root since the General Election and the abandonment of the old ways.
For one, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the mace, the symbol of Parliament’s power, had to leave the chamber. This made it possible for Mr Rotich, who is not an MP, to confidently stroll in and sit.
The House was effectively a large meeting hall of the Budget and Appropriations Committee and its chairman, the Rev Mutava Musyimi, was running the show.
Mr Rotich was in the company of Ms Anne Waiguru, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Planning and Devolution. He took the seat normally occupied by Majority Leader Adan Duale.
One could tell that he was on unfamiliar ground, though, as he inspected his surroundings, he whispered greetings to those he could recognise and settled down to await the call to address the MPs and indeed the nation.
Outside Parliament, there were signs that some things had changed and others not much. The flagpoles traditionally planted on Budget Day were in place and the guard rails opposite Parliament Buildings had a banner flag wrapped around them.
No guard of honour
But there was not going to be a president in attendance and, therefore, no guard of honour and no cumbersome security detail in the buildings.
As he started reading from an iPad with the briefcase lying unopened, some MPs scribbled furiously while others tapped on their laptops or tablets.
In the past, MPs rarely left the chamber as the Budget was read. This time, quite a number walked out, perhaps because they did not wish to “rest their eyes” while in the chamber like in the past.
Those who remained drummed on the floor whenever Mr Rotich said something they liked, such as the allocation of Sh19.1 billion for the Parliamentary Service Commission.
The announcement that materials to put together the new railway would not be taxed was also received warmly.
When he announced the various allocations to take care of the disabled, ODM nominated MP Isaac Mwaura thumped his feet like the rest and unable to contain his joy, stood and clapped.
But when Mr Rotich announced that the VAT Bill, which could impose taxes on basic commodities, is coming back, a few shook their heads and questioned the logic of that statement.
There will clearly be some explaining for the Cabinet Secretary to do on that one when the Bill, which has been approved by the Cabinet eventually gets to Parliament.
He completed the marathon 58 minutes without once reaching for the bottles of water to his left.
By then, the chamber was half full. Those who had remained behind eagerly lined up to shake his hand, with a few hugging him in congratulation.
Most popular man
He was clearly the most popular man in the chamber and this continued outside, where the Budget Committee had organised a small feast and the Administration Police band to entertain.
MPs will have some time to digest the full meaning of his first Budget before they can begin the actual job of deciding whether the Bills to implement his ideas are good enough to become law.-nation.co.ke