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Govt pleads for help over food prices

NAIROBI, November 25 – Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya has called on the civil society to rally the masses against manufacturers and suppliers whom he blames for ever rising prices of flour in the country.

Mr Oparanya who was responding to complaints by participants at the launch of the popular version of the African Peer Review Mechanism Report (APRM) in Nairobi said the government had played its part and needed the input of lobbyists.

“I want to ask the civil society to play their role effectively, because there is only enough the government can do. We zero rated most foodstuffs in the last budget reading but most of these benefits are yet to be passed on to consumers and this is happening even in electricity and oil,” Mr Oparanya said.

A two-kilogramme packet of maize flour is currently retailing at between Sh80 and Sh120 in various retail stores in the country.

Participants at the meeting expressed concern that millers were hoarding the commodity in a bid to create an artificial shortage so as to inflate consumer prices of the commodity.

Mr Oparanya however expressed optimism that if the rains came on time the country would experience a bumper harvest and consequently improved food security.

“I would also like to inform you that the National Strategic Reserve has three million bags and the government has pledged to increase this to eight million in the next two years,” he said.

The popular APRM report is being released to the public in a bid to allow all interested parties to give their contribution before the final copy is presented in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia next year.

The copy has been further translated into a Kiswahili version for it to be more accessible to the masses.

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Mr Oparanya pointed out that dominant issues raised by Kenyans included the desire for a new constitution, concerns about the widening gap between the rich and the poor and, fears that inter-ethnic conflicts could continue if comprehensive land reforms were not implemented.

Stakeholders also expressed unease about the lack of clarity from the government on how the constitutional review process would be handled.  They were also surprised that the 2008/2009 budget did not allocate funds for the constitutional review process.

Kenya was one of the 10 pioneer countries to accede to the APRM process in March 2003 and one of the first countries to undergo the peer review, which culminated in President Mwai kibaki presenting it to his counterparts in Banjul in Gambia 2006.

The report also assesses the implementation of the programmes aimed at addressing governance challenges highlighted in the APRM National Programme of Action and the most important issues identified in the country review report.

“The government and NEPAD Kenya are taking the bold step to share some of this challenges and solutions with the public.  In this regard, it is significant to note that by the time this report is discussed in January 2009 at the next APRM mechanism in Addis Ababa with other reports from other countries, stakeholders, the government and policy makers will have been fully exposed to the report,” he said.   

The current APRM progress report covers the period of June 2006 to June 2008.

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