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COVID-19: Kenya gets $750m World Bank loan to boost economy

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THE Kenyan government said it had received a $750 million loan from the World Bank to support its budget and help the East African economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multilateral lender said on Friday.

  The $750 million disbursement is part of World Bank’s Development Policy Operations (DPO), which lends cash for budget support instead of financing specific projects.

  The bank said some of the funds would go towards setting up an electronic procurement system for government goods and services to improve transparency.

  The World Bank said the concessional loan would have a 3.1 per cent annual interest rate.

  Typically, World Bank loans have zero or very low interest rates and have repayment periods of 25 to 40 years, with a five- or 10-year grace period.

  On Thursday, Finance Minister, Ukur Yatani presented to parliament the 2021/22 budget, with a deficit of 7.5 per cent of gross domestic product, reduced from 8.7 per cent for the current fiscal year ending this month.

  The Finance Ministry forecasts a economic growth of 6.6 per cent this year, recovering from 0.6 per cent in 2020 when sectors like tourism and related services collapsed due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

  The World Bank forecasts Kenya’s economy will grow 4.5 per cent this year, and 4.7 per cent in 2022.

  President Uhuru Kenyatta, who took the helm in 2013, has overseen a jump in public borrowing. Total debt stands at 70 per cent of GDP, up from about 45 per cent when he took over – a surge that some politicians and economists say is saddling future generations with too much debt.

  The government has defended the increased borrowing, saying the country must invest in its infrastructure, including roads and railways.

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