How times have changed. Who would have thought a day would come when the government of Kenya would think that the Mercedes Benz, the ultimate status symbol, was bad for its mage?
A day after State House rejected 8 luxury fuel guzzlers, Treasury yesterday dropped the broad hint that the Benz, the mark of ministers and senior government officials, will soon be a thing of the past.
The government now wants vehicles that sip, not guzzle, petrol. And it is not enough for a vehicle to be no more than 1,800cc it must be cheap and be seen to be cheap.
“It is a question of attitude and perception. To the majority of Kenyans, it does not matter what model a Mercedes is a Mercedes and it is expensive….as a government, that is not the kind of image we want to pass on to Kenyans”, said Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua.
Therefore, while some Mercedes models meet the 1800cc limit announced in this year’s budget, the models would still send the wrong message to most Kenyans.
The government is expected to buy new vehicles for government officials once they comply with the austerity measure announced by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in his budget speech presented to Parliament on June 11.
Mr. Kenyatta directed all Cabinet Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Provincial Commissioners and other senior public officials who are entitled to official cars be given vehicles whose engine capacity is no more than 1800cc.
Mr. Kenyatta, his assistant minister Dr. Oburu Oginga and Mr. Kinyua started using Volkswagen Passat, complying with the directive on the same day.
With the exception of the Mercedes Benz, many of the cars surrendered under the austerity measures will be given to the police.
“Definitely we will not give the police Mercedes cars. But the police have been asking for vehicles, and there is no need of buying new ones when we have others” said the PS.
He was speaking to the Daily Nation at Treasury after Mr. Kenyatta and Swedish Ambassador Anna Brandt, signed a Sh.3.5 billion-a-year development cooperation agreement. The agreement will run for five years.
Mr. Kinyua said the government expected to generate about 500million from the sale of cars returned by its officials.
The money will be used in an economic stimulus package and social projects such as resettling internally displaced people.
Earlier, Mr. Kenyatta prasied the move by the President and First Lady Lucy Kibaki to reject the 8 vehicles, saying the government will save about 150 million.
“Kenyans expect us to be a government that is not engaged in any extravagant expenditure”, said Mr. Kenyatta.