Living in Kenya a costly affair

June 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 11 – As Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta makes his maiden budget speech on Thursday, many Kenyans are still complaining about the high cost of living especially when it comes to purchasing basic commodities.

Zablon Onyango operates his business of cooking and selling mandazi (a local snack), which feeds his family of six at the Soweto village in Kibera.

He says the high cost of basic commodities like flour and cooking oil has greatly affected his business, negatively.

“Right now I am buying a two kilogramme packet of wheat flour at Sh110 while previously it was Sh68. It has really affected my business negatively because from that two kilo packet I would make a profit of Sh150 but now it doesn’t even get anywhere near that amount,” Mr Onyango complains.

He told Capital News that he has now resorted to reducing the size of his mandazi, which has not gone well with his customers.

“They complain that the size is now too small but you see I have to try and make a profit. This is what my family feeds on,” he goes on to say.

Mr Onyango hopes that Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta will put in place measures to reduce the prices of basic commodities.

“For the last three years they have been saying that the prices will come down but it seems to be increasing everyday,” an infuriated Mr Onyango says.

Last year, the then Finance Minister Amos Kimunya zero rated tax on basic commodities, but this has not reflected in the rates consumers are paying.

Other Kenyans interviewed also feel that the Finance Minister should work out a way of ensuring that the prices of basic commodities come down.

“Let them reduce these prices so that we get back to the level we were some years back,” says one Kenyan.

“It has been very tough and that is why you see women fighting over relief food,” remarks another.

Consumer Information Network Chief Executive Officer Samuel Ochieng on his part says the Finance Minister should consider increasing disposable income.

This, he says, will ensure Kenyans have more money in their pockets to spend on needs like healthcare and education.

“We also look at the budget with a lot of expectation that we will be able to accelerate employment levels. We have so many of our people not in employment and whatever we are seeing being given out there are more less casual jobs and not really sustainable jobs,” he says.

“So we are looking for a budget which is also going to give incentives to the manufacturers so that they can absorb more people.”

Speaking to Capital News, Mr Ochieng said that even with the global financial crisis hitting hard, it is possible to bring down the prices of basic commodities if the government applies some crucial interventions like reducing the cost of governance.

“We need to have leaders come up and say that they will pay taxes, share what they are getting at least for this moment so that the economy can pick up.”

The Finance Minister is expected on Thursday afternoon to read his Sh866 billion budget, with Sh606 billion intended for salaries and other bills.

Despite the legislators earning hefty pay packages and allowances, they are yet to consent to pay taxes. Currently, only one Member of Parliament is being taxed after personally requesting the Kenya Revenue Authority to do so.

This not withstanding and the fact that Kenyans are already struggling with increased food and fuel prices coupled with high unemployment rates, it is widely expected that the minister will increases taxes to cater for his mammoth budget.

“The other kind of intervention is where there are targeted programmes. During the fuel crisis, there were certain countries that would have fuel sold at subsidised rates for public transporters then those who use public transport will not have to pay too much,” says Mr Ochieng.


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