Kenya could resume price controls

June 23, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 22 – Price controls on essential goods that were abolished close to two decades ago could be re-introduced in Kenya following the passage of the Price Control (Essential Goods) Bill.

The Bill introduced by Mathira MP Ephraim Maina however requires Presidential assent.

If it becomes law, the government will be obligated to issue price ceilings on essential goods whose prices keep fluctuating to cushion members of public from exploitation. Among goods Members of Parliament want the government to regulate include food items, sugar and fuel.

“We cannot be talking of development when essentials are not affordable by ordinary Kenyans,” said Mr Maina. “Even the developed countries have an anti-monopoly bill which is what have in this new bill.”

Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro said: “As a trained economist I would not go for controlling prices but because Kenyans are suffering owing to skyrocketing prices. We need to ensure that citizens have access to basic foods and services”

“It is a high time our government starts thinking about the poor people in the rural areas and find ways in which they must cater for them,” added Kitutu Masaba MP Walter Nyambati.

 “We are telling Ministers in this House to make sure the President signs this Bill into law immediately since the government has not raised any single amendment,” said Mr Ethuro.

Some legislators said reducing the prices of basic goods like food and fuel will have a ripple effect on other services including transport.

“School secondary school fees in this country have remained high essentially owing to the increasing food prices,” said Ikolomani Bonny Khalwale.

Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu said: “We should have amended this motion to include essential services such as mortuary fees to help the poor Kenyans.”

Trade Minister Amos Kimunya said the government remained committed to implementing the Bill but with limits to avoid contradicting the principle of a liberalised market.

“We know we adopted the principle of a liberalised market a while ago and we do not want to be seen to be going against the same principle applied by our regional partners,” he said.

The National Economic and Social Council has in the past discouraged price controls on the basis a liberalised market. Attempts by the Energy Regulation Commission to reign on oil cartels were halted under the advice of the council.

The Clerk of National Assembly has up to 14 days to submit the Bill to the Attorney General who will in turn hand it over to the President for assent within two weeks.

The Head of State will within another 14 days sign it into law or send it back to the House with a memorandum indicating areas the government would want amended.

However the House can reject the memorandum by securing the 75 percent vote needed to override a Presidential veto.


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