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Kenya Opens Donor Meeting, Promises Reforms - 2003-11-24

Kenyan officials are optimistic about a donors meeting in Nairobi, following the International Monetary Fund's approval of a $253 million loan to the country.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki opened the two-day meeting on an upbeat note. He told representatives of the World Bank, the European Union, the United States and other donors that Kenya is ready for reform.

President Kibaki reiterated his government's commitment to fight corruption and spelled out the goals of the country's Economic Recovery Strategy. He said the government's priorities include building and upgrading roads and other infrastructure, reforming the civil service, fine-tuning its universal free primary education program, and improving security.

The meeting is the first of its kind in almost a decade between the government and donors. Analysts say widespread corruption was one of several factors that discouraged donors from putting money into Kenya under the previous government.

The meeting follows on the heels of an announcement made Saturday that the International Monetary Fund is resuming its lending to Kenya, with a $253 million loan.

An economics researcher with the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, Moses Kiptui, says the timing of the fund's announcement will help give other donors the confidence to resume financial aid to Kenya, starting with this week's meeting.

"The fact that the IMF has resumed lending implies that the consultative meeting will examine Kenya's case in a more favorable manner that it would have if the IMF had refused to resume lending," he explained.

But Mr. Kiptui warns the Kenyan government not to be complacent about the issue of funding.

"It is a question of whether the government can commit itself to meeting some of those conditions," he said. "In fact, this donor funding, I believe, will require so much discipline on the part of government."

Analysts say some of these conditions include eradicating corruption, privatizing some state-owned enterprises, and streamlining the civil service.

Kenya's economy has been steadily declining over the past decade to the point that, according to government reports, more than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The new government has promised to create half a million new jobs and is trying to cope with a large budget.