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MPs riled by govt inaction over inflation

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – The government came under fire from lawmakers on Tuesday for its slow response in mitigating the high fuel prices that have seen most Kenyans buckle under a high cost of living.

Speaking in Parliament after they set aside normal business to discuss soaring prices and an unbearable cost of  living, MPs further rubbished the move by the Finance Minister to reduce excise duty on diesel and kerosene as "too little too late."

The government has maintained that the high prices being experienced in the country was as a result of international factors.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi told Parliament that the situation could be attributed to the weak value of the Kenya shilling against the dollar as well as the obsolete refinery at the coast.

He said that the government would soon meet to discuss the strengthening of the shilling adding that plans are underway to construct a modern refinery that will boost the oil reserves in the country.

Budalang\’i MP Ababu Namwamba who moved the Motion to discuss the crisis said that over four million Kenyans who rely on kerosene as their only source of energy were now at risk as they cannot afford the commodity at its current price of Sh92 per litre.

He added that the situation was replicated in the cost of foodstuffs such as maize meal and wheat flour.

The Budalangi MP further cited the notice by matatu operators of their intention to raise their fares by 30 percent as a result of high fuel prices, saying it would worsen the situation for Kenyans in the low income bracket.

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He led MPs Charles Kilonzo, Martha Karua, Aden Duale and John Mbadi in condemning a section of political leaders for focusing much of their energy in early campaigns ahead of the 2012 poll instead of addressing issues that gravely affect Kenyans.

The MPs called on the government to cut down on the expenses and subsidies the cost of living of Kenyans.

In his response to the Motion, Mr Murungi challenged MPs to bring an amendment to further lower duty on petroleum products being imported into the country.

He said it would have been illegal for the minister to reduce the excise duty below the 30 percent level adding that only Parliament can carry out further reduction by amending the Finance Bill.

The Energy Ministry had come under heavy criticism over the various graft cases involving its parastatals, at one point Gwasi MP John Mbadi asked the Minister to resign for failing to act on cartels in the energy sector.

The debate on the Motion at times took a political twist, with speakers taking turns to attack the principals and various ministries for their failure to plan ahead of time.

Ol Kalou MP Erastus Mureithi and Livestock Assistant minister Aden Duale called on the PM to call an urgent sub-committee meeting to deliberate on the matter while Nominated MPs Rachel Shebesh and Millie Odhiambo on the other hand wonder why the Cabinet had not convened a crisis meeting to come with a way forward on the issue like it has on other crises.

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo accused the government of playing games, saying that the government had adopted an \’I don\’t know policy\’ to every issue that came to Parliament. He said that it was sad that the government has usually been caught flat footed even after it was warned in advance by its planning institutions.

Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaiserry stretched the debate further and called for the trimming of the bloated Cabinet saying that it had failed to serve its purpose of ensuring national unity. 

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MPs called on government to consider formulating a national oil reserve policy paper, which will give the way forward on the establishment of oil reserve depots across the country as well as look to alternative source of energy to address the over dependence on oil.

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