Senators have called for laws to protect local contractors against unfair competition from foreigners, especially Chinese firms.
While analysing a report on the progress of the Kibwezi-Athi-Mutomo-Kitui road project, the lawmakers complained that Chinese companies are enjoying incentives, including tax relief, whenever they win contracts in Kenya.
“When a Chinese company is given a contract to build a road in Kenya, every piece of equipment it brings in — be it an excavator, a tractor or a lorry — is duty-free,” said Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi.
Mr Wamatangi said the uneven playing field between local firms and their foreign peers was hurting the latter.
“This is the reason the government has ended up labeling every Kenyan contractor a cowboy contractor,” he averred.
Wamatangi told the House a moderate truck which is used in construction costs about Sh10 million in Kenya.
A Chinese contractor can ship in his for Sh4 million.
“The lowest cost for a good grader right now is about Sh22 million. A Chinese will bring it here for less than Sh10 million. If a Chinese brings in a simple item like a generator, he will pay less than half the price and yet they are expected to come here and compete with Kenyan contractors,” complained Wamatangi.
The Kibwezi-Athi-Mutomo road is being constructed by a Chinese firm at a cost of Sh18 billion.
There have been concerns about the heavy presence of Chinese contractors in the Kenyan market, some taking up projects that local contractors can easily implement.
In 2018, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said he would draft a Bill to bar foreign firms from bidding for government tenders valued at less than Sh1 billion, to increase the participation of local firms in State projects.