Politicians trade barbs as cost of living rises

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 05:13 | By
Azimio leader Raila Odinga and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto. PHOTO/Courtesy
Azimio leader Raila Odinga and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto. PHOTO/Courtesy

The leading political alliances yesterday engaged in a blame game over the skyrocketing cost of living.

While ODM leader Raila Odinga accused Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) team of being the root cause of the high living standards faced by Kenyans, the latter blamed the problem on his Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The exchange was linked to a campaign #lowerfoodprices meant to force the administration to enact policies, to cushion Kenyans against the high cost of living continued to trend on social media for the second day yesterday. It began late on Sunday and it aims at raising attention on the costly prices.   

Cooking oil, sugar, maize flour and LPG gas are some of the commodities reported to have become more expensive in the recent months.

Speaking in Kwale, Raila said corruption is the main cause of high living standards in the country, which has led to harsh economic status.

“The corrupt leaders are the ones to blame for the harsh economic status of the country. Living standards are too high for the local mwananchi,” he said.

Raila was reacting to the KKA statement made in Meru yesterday morning on foreign loans and high living standards in the country.

The KKA leaders said they are aware that the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani seeks to submit to Parliament a proposal for a new debt ceiling of more than Sh12 trillion.

Further strangulation

In a statement read by Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi, KKA said Yatani exceeded the set debt ceiling without seeking new approval from Parliament in total violation of the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.

He said the CS should not sign any new loans including floating sovereign bonds during the transition period.

“Parliament must avoid any further strangulation of Kenyans with additional debts by refusing any request for approval of a new debt ceiling. The total loan commitments and stock of debt procured exceed the public debt ceiling of Sh9 trillion as approved by Parliament in 2019, thereby breaching the Constitution,” he said.

Kenyans have called on the government to act on the prices of food they claimed were becoming unbearably high as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

They spoke as lobby groups led by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and Consumers Federation of Kenya piled pressure on the government, to put in place stop-gap measures to stop further increase saying they were detrimental to their recovery after being battered by the Covid-19 for over two years.

KAM Chief Executive Phyllis Wakiaga told People Daily the enactment of the Finance Act, 2021 and The Crop (Nuts and Oil Crops) Regulations, 2020 were linked to the sudden rise in the prices.

She said the regulations introduced new fees and levies on thirteen (13) scheduled crops including sunflower, sesame, coconut, cashew nut, groundnut/peanut, safflower, linseed jojoba, oilseed, flaxseed and Bambara nuts among others.

“With the implementation of these regulations, the price of essential commodities has increased further, putting more strain on Kenyans who are already struggling to make ends meet,” Wakiaga said.

The chief executive said through the Finance Act 2021, the government imposed an excise tax on raw materials and 16 per cent VAT on the supply of some products, effectively increasing the cost of manufacturing and final consumer prices.

“Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) also implemented the 4.97 per cent inflation adjustment on specific rates of duty, leading to an increase in the price of excisable goods. The Finance Act 2021 also introduced a 10 per cent excise tax on articles of plastic. The excise duty is only charged on locally produced plastics for packaging, which gives imports a cost advantage over locally manufactured plastic. Consequently, manufacturers have to grapple with the increased cost of production,” she said.

“Kenya government must aggressively seek a debt interest holiday and have all the short-term and commercial public debts restructured into long-term facilities…Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates is seriously addressing the issue of the high cost of living. They are, instead, paying lip service to a complex problem that can neither be cured by ‘bottom-up’ economic model nor the proposed Sh6,000 monthly stipends for poor households,” said Cofek in a statement.

Kenyans who spoke to People Daily expressed their difficulties at affording basic commodities, beseeching the government to come to their aid.

In Kisii, Agnes Moraa, who runs an eatery, said she buys 20 litres of cooking now at Sh4,075 up from Sh2,350 a few months ago, saying she is unable to pay her bills and care for her grandchildren.

“I am caring for six orphans and I have to pay my three workers Sh1,200 per day. Life is difficult and if the prices of the goods are not controlled, some people will close their businesses,” Moraa said.

She said the cost of one kilogramme of sugar has increased from Sh100 to Sh140 while that of maize flour has increased from Sh130 to Sh150.

Thomson Osoro- Rigena Human Rights chairman, challenged the leaders to shelve their political campaigns and fight for the reduction of taxes and prices of the goods.

Jacob Nyaoso, a radio technician, appealed to the government to reduce the prices of flour, sugar, salt, paraffin, tea leaves and fertilizer to help the majority of poor Kenyans.

Steep rise

In Kiambu, Jomo Muita, the AIPCA Bishop representing Gatundu Archdiocese hit out at the government for failing to curb the ever-rising prices of basic commodities such as cooking oil, sugar, and maize flour.

Speaking after installing a new altar at the newly built Karinga village AIPCA church, Muita noted Kenyans who are yet to heal from Covid-19 shocks are grappling to even afford a single meal in a day in the wake of revelations that food prices rose by 8.89 per cent in January.

“We have so many families that are struggling to even get one meal. This is not the life we would wish for Kenyans who do not even have income-generating activities after they got fired as a result of Covid-19,” he said.

Mary Wambui decried that most Kenyans have become hopeless saying in the current harsh economic situations, most families have been devastated.

“We need the support of the government in enhancing agricultural activities, which have been stalled by expensive farm inputs,” said Wambui.

In Nakuru, residents also lamented that the country in the last month has witnessed a steep rise in prices of basic commodities.

Susan Wanjiku, a resident, said that it has been an uphill task to maintain her family with Sh1,000 on food every week as compared to other months.

“I used to spend at least Sh1,000 on food every week but currently my expenditure has gone overboard, something needs to be done by the government,” said Wanjiku.

John Kariuki, another resident, said a Kenyan could easily get depressed by just walking into supermarkets saying the aisles are screaming high prices.

 “Sh1,000, unlike previously, will only buy very few commodities, I don’t understand why the electioneering period brings about inflation,” said Kariuki.

It was the same cry in Kisumu where Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industries branch chairman Israel Agina said the unprecedented rise in the cost of foodstuffs in the last few months had resulted from increased fuel prices and the cost of electricity. “We believe the best way to save ordinary Kenyans from the cost of living is to review the petroleum prices,” Agina told People Daily yesterday.

Margaret Oketch, a vegetable vendor in Kisumu town, says life has become unbearable since the cost of basic commodities began rising.

Oketch, a mother of four, says she has been forced to cut down on her spending, especially on nonessential items she used to buy in her house as a way of adjusting to the high cost of food.

— Stories by Irene Githinji, Munira Mandano, Robert Ochoro, Mathew Ndung’u, Roy Lumbe, Noven Owiti and Denis Lumiti

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