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Food shortage is top priority

NAIROBI, December 12 – President Mwai Kibaki has assured Kenyans that the government is addressing the current food shortage and the high prices of basic food commodities as a matter of priority.

Addressing the nation at Nyayo National Stadium during this year’s Jamhuri Day celebrations on Friday, the president said the government had put measures in place to increase food production and sustain national food security.

“The Government recently announced interventions aimed at streamlining the distribution of maize in the country which include duty free importation of maize and the use of the strategic grain reserves to stabilize food prices,” President Kibaki said.

The President disclosed that following consultations with maize millers on the necessary modalities, the government had agreed to release 700,000 bags of maize directly to the millers.

In addition, the government will import a further five million bags of maize through the National Cereals and Produce Board, saying these measures are intended to ensure that the commodity is not only readily available but also affordable.

In this regard, President Kibaki said the government will not tolerate unfair business practices and will take stern action against unscrupulous businessmen who manipulate the food supply chain in order to maximize profits.

He also assured Wananchi of the grand coalition government’s commitment to delivering a new constitutional dispensation, saying the National Assembly has already passed the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill which he has assented to.

“I urge leaders and Kenyans in general, to rise above partisan interests so that we can reach consensus on a constitution that will serve present and future generations well,” the President said.

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President Kibaki said the government is also determined to ensure that Kenyans pay fair prices for fuel and other petroleum products and has taken measures to tackle the high cost of energy.

“We will continuously engage stakeholders in the sector with a view to implementing limited regulation of oil prices so that the local fuel prices reflect international movement in oil prices,” the Head of State said.

He said his government is focusing on increasing the proportion of electricity generated from hydro and geothermal sources and improving the distribution of petroleum products to cushion the adverse impact of high energy prices on the cost of living as well as the overall performance of the economy.

“Towards this end, KenGen together with local and international independent power producers are implementing several power generation projects that will add over 200 Megawatts to the national power supply by the end of the year 2009,” President said. 

Following Parliament’s adoption of the report by the Independent Electoral Review Commission, President Kibaki said the grand coalition government has initiated a consultative process to put in place the necessary legal framework for implementation of comprehensive reform of the electoral system.

The President, therefore, appealed to Members of Parliament to be critical, but open-minded, as they engage with each other on the proposed Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2008.

“Let us always focus on the greater interest of our country so that we can facilitate the reform process that will create a transparent, effective and accountable electoral system,” the Head of State said.

Regarding the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, President Kibaki said the Government constituted a cabinet committee to develop an action plan for implementing the commission’s recommendations.

He expressed optimism that that the implementation of the Kriegler and Waki reports will go a long way towards laying a firm foundation for a stable and cohesive society.

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The President said the government has also put in place programmes to provide smallholders with affordable certified seeds so as to produce enough food.

“In addition, my government is focusing on irrigation as a priority in order to reduce our reliance on rain- fed agriculture.  We will also continue to implement reforms aimed at transforming agriculture into a commercial activity,” President Kibaki said.

On youth empowerment, President Kibaki said his government is investing heavily in the rehabilitation of youth polytechnics where the youth can acquire vocational and technical skills.

He announced that with effect from January next year, the government will provide tuition subsidies totaling Sh465 million to 500 registered youth polytechnics.

“These grants will enable the youth polytechnics to purchase training equipment and materials and introduce the new and modern curriculum that has been developed,” he said. 

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