(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan President William Ruto nominated former central bank Governor Njuguna Ndung’u to lead the Treasury as he prepares to tackle the East African nation’s burgeoning debt and surging cost of living.
Ruto, who was sworn in as president on Sept. 13, also named ex-Finance Minister Musalia Mudavadi as prime cabinet secretary in a sweeping overhaul of the executive in which only one of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ministers was retained. Of the 22 ministers nominated, seven were women.
Read: Kenyan President Weighs Naming Ex-Treasury Head as Cabinet Chief
Ndung’u, 62, is a key architect of Ruto’s so-called bottom-up economic model, a pro-poor program that seeks to channel government resources to industries that can create the most jobs, such as farming. He will oversee Ruto’s key economic pledges, including a plan to invest at least 500 billion shillings ($4.2 billion) in agriculture and small businesses over five years.
Ruto also plans to raise 200 billion shillings by securitizing a fuel levy, and spend it on completing roads under construction and upgrading others in rural and urban areas. To tackle mounting arrears to suppliers, contractors and statutory payments such as pensions, Ruto has said he’ll offer a long-term bond to settle about 505 billion shillings of pending bills.
“We have a difficult economic situation on our hands, but I’m confident working with this team we will overcome all the challenges that are there,” Ruto said.
Ndung’u was governor of the Central Bank of Kenya from 2007 to 2015, before being appointed executive director of the African Economic Research Consortium in 2018. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
During his tenure as central bank governor, Ndung’u drew criticism from investors and lawmakers in 2011 for cutting interest rates to a record low at a time when inflation was beginning to surge. The Kenyan shilling fell as much as 24% that year to a then-record against the dollar.
“Ndung’u’s appointment is a mixed bag,” said Connor Vasey, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group. “On the one hand, he stands out as one of the most technically capable cabinet nominees and was willing to stand by difficult policy decisions at the Central Bank of Kenya over a window of economic turmoil. On the other, his effectiveness in that role was far from perfect, particularly on the currency front.”
As prime cabinet secretary, Mudavadi will be the most senior member of Ruto’s administration after the president and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua.
Other appointments include:
- Davis Chirchir returns as energy minister, a post he held from 2013 to 2015
- Alfred Mutua, a former governor of Machakos county, will head the foreign ministry
- Lawyer and lawmaker Kithure Kindiki will be interior minister
- Former majority leader in parliament, Aden Duale, becomes defense minister
- Justin Muturi, a former speaker of parliament, was appointed attorney general.
Ruto also announced that Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai asked to proceed on terminal leave for health reasons, and that the head of criminal investigations, George Kinoti, had resigned. The president nominated Japheth Koome Nchebere to take over as head of police.
The nominees will undergo confirmation hearings in the National Assembly, where lawmakers will vet them and either reject or endorse them, before they’re formally sworn into office.
(Updates with analyst comment in seventh paragraph)
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