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Pressure mounts for fuel price drop

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21- The Centre for Multi Party Democracy (CMD) on Thursday asked the government to lower the production costs in the agricultural and industrial sectors to cushion Kenyans against the rising costs of living.

Chairman Larry Gumbe noted that the fluctuating costs of fuel had sent the prices of basic commodities over the roof increasing the financial burden on the ordinary citizen.

He added the government should address and reduce the country’s national debt to prevent inflation in the future.

“The prices of goods have escalated to astronomical levels in the recent past. With over 60 percent of our population living on less than a dollar a day this rise makes it a very serious challenge to their living standards,” he argued.

The prices of consumer goods like bread, flour and sugar have increased by between 10 and 30 percent over the past one month. A loaf of bread currently sells for Sh40 up from Sh35 last month.

Prof Gumbe also criticised the National Oil Corporation of Kenya saying it ought to have put in place strategic oil reserves to protect Kenyans from the spiraling petroleum prices.

He further asked the government to investigate corruption in the oil industry claiming that it was to blame.

“The government has blamed international prices and said that this is the only reason for the escalation of prices. We think that this is not true; it is just part of the story. A large part of the increase is as a result of having cartels in the sector who fix the prices,” he alleged.

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The civil society also called for a review of the Energy Regulation Commission saying it had failed in its mandate. Prof Gumbe further called upon the government to look into the taxation systems of petroleum products saying the bulk of the profits benefited a few people.

Some non-governmental organisations claim that the government collects less that 30 percent of tax from the oil sector.

“The government put in place a mechanism for regulating petroleum prices which in our view has not worked. They must therefore re-look at how and why petroleum products are regulated,” he said.  

The political movement further said it had gone to court seeking an interpretation over when the next general elections should be held. Prof Gumbe argued that there was need for the judicial institutions to set the record straight and so as to give political parties enough time to prepare.

CMD brings together 30 political parties.

“And we are waiting for a hearing date so that this could be determined. We need to be clear about when the elections should be held because there are sections of the constitution that are used by various players in the country to cite different dates for the elections,” he said.

Prof Gumbe explained that the constitution set the election date on the second Tuesday of every August, each five years. He however noted that a separate paragraph of the constitution guaranteed the current Parliament its full five year term (which ends in December 2012).

“I think that is where the interpretation is required because we know politicians would take advantage of even the slightest gap that exists in terms of interpretation,” he said.

The organisation also criticised the Ugandan government for its crackdown on protestors who are demonstrating against the inflation and high cost of living in the country.

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