, NAIROBI, Kenya, June 1 – President Mwai Kibaki has assured Kenyans that the Government is taking both short and long term measures to cushion them from increased food and fuel prices.
The President cited the zero rating of duty on paraffin and a drastic reduction of duty on diesel as some of the Government\’s efforts to alleviate the hardships being faced by Kenyans.
"I am fully aware of the hardships being faced by Kenyans due to increased food and fuel prices," President Kibaki said.
The Head of State was speaking today at the Nyayo National Stadium when led the nation in marking the country\’s 48th Madaraka Day celebrations.
President Kibaki said the Government is actively engaged in the development of other sources of energy such as geothermal, coal, solar and wind as its long term approach to addressing high costs of energy.
The President said plans are also underway to put in place up to three months fuel storage facilities, adding that more competition will be encouraged in the oil industry to reduce the drastic changes in fuel prices currently being experienced in the country.
On food security, President Kibaki assured that the Government is building the strategic grain reserves to 8 million bags of maize to ensure ready availability of food in the country.
"We intend to hold this maize stock at all times, to mitigate impacts of the cycle of droughts," President Kibaki said.
For the parts of the country currently experiencing drought, the Head of State emphasized that the Government will expand relief food programmes in those areas.
He said concrete strategies are also being put in place to facilitate the moving away from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture and several major dams are being constructed around the country to increase water availability.
Observing that the agriculture sector achieved a growth rate of 6.3 per cent last year up from negative 4.6 per cent in 2008, the President said the Government will continue to support farmers and livestock keepers in their activities.
President Kibaki said this year the Government will spend Sh3.8 billion for fertilizer subsidy throughout the country and Sh400 million to provide free seed to farmers.
He stressed that the Government will also continue with the livestock off-take programme in areas hit by drought.
Said President Kibaki: "These are short term measures to cope with the drought situation and mitigate on increasing food prices."
Other measures being taken to boost the agriculture and livestock sectors include the implementation of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agri-business programme, the Small-scale horticultural Marketing programme, irrigated food security economic stimulus programme and construction of abattoirs in Northern Kenya.
The President added that the Government is also promoting the fishing industry through construction of fish ponds in several constituencies around the country.
"These programmes, in conjunction with the steps we are taking to upgrade roads, electricity, and marketing infrastructure in the rural areas, will help transform agriculture into a profitable commercial venture. This will ensure food security and create employment for our people," the President said.
On security, President Kibaki reiterated the Government\’s unrelenting commitment to ensuring that all Kenyans are safe.
He disclosed that measures have been taken to contain all forms of crime across the country, saying patrols have also been intensified along the country\’s borders.
Pointing out that the Islands of Migingo and Ugingo lie squarely on Kenyan territory in Lake Victoria, the President reassured all Kenyans that there should be no cause for alarm on the issue.
"Let me also reiterate that as a country, we shall always opt for diplomacy and dialogue whenever an issue arises with our neighbours. We should always remember that Kenya is the biggest promoter of regional integration," President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki, therefore, urged wananchi to always aspire to live harmoniously with their neighbours, noting that a peaceful region holds much promise for Kenyans who have the great potential to do business and get jobs across the borders.
Saying the enactment of the new Constitution last August will remain an important milestone in the history of the nation, the President reaffirmed that the Grand Coalition Government has initiated the process of fully implementing the Constitution.
Consequently, President Kibaki said, various Bills have been prepared and are in the process of being enacted into law.
Said the Head of State: "Key among them are laws relating to reforms in the Judiciary. Other main areas of focus include the electoral, devolution, and land laws."
In this connection, the President urged Parliament to give priority to all Bills giving effect to the Constitution.
On his part, President Kibaki said he has already directed all government ministries and departments to draft Bills well ahead of the timelines stipulated in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
He said the Cabinet will also discuss and approve all Bills presented by various ministries in the shortest time possible and encouraged members of the public to participate fully in stakeholder consultations being held on various aspects of the Constitution.
"That way, we will all play a part in shaping the legislation required to put in place various aspects of our new Constitution," the Head of State said.
Paying tribute to the nation\’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his compatriots, President Kibaki recalled that the country\’s freedom heroes had a vision and eloquently spoke of the need to fight ignorance, disease and poverty.
The President observed that the vision outlined by the country\’s founding fathers has been the inspiration behind the Government\’s heavy investments in the social sectors.
Said the President: "Our aim has been that all our children have a decent education that will provide them with good prospects for the future."
He, therefore, expressed satisfaction that the country\’s primary, secondary and university education sectors have greatly expanded with close to 9 million children enjoying free primary education while the total university enrollment has reached the 200,000 mark.
"I am proud of the many Kenyans who, after work and on weekends, go to institutions of higher learning, to advance their knowledge and skills, so that they can make more significant contributions to our country," President Kibaki said.
In order to consolidate the gains in the education sector, the President said a taskforce has been established to review education, training and research. The taskforce will propose an appropriate education management system at the national and county levels.
On health, President Kibaki said the Government has invested massive resources to provide improved services to wananchi.
Saying the country now has 7,260 public health facilities compared to only 1,200 in 1997, the President observed that many of the new public health facilities have been developed using the Constituency Development Fund and the Economic Stimulus Package.
"These initiatives have brought healthcare closer to the people across the country," the President said.
In addition, President Kibaki said the Government has stepped up immunization against preventable diseases and is providing the service free of charge throughout the country in public health facilities.
As a result, the President said deaths among children under the age of five years have reduced by 36 per cent.
Besides immunization, President Kibaki said major strides have been made in the anti-malaria campaign with 11 million mosquito nets having been provided so far to Kenyan families as a defensive barrier against malaria infections.
Said the President: "Deaths from malaria among children less than 5 years of age in malaria endemic districts have dropped by 44 per cent. As a result, our country has not experienced malaria epidemics in the last 8 years."
The President also lauded the country\’s achievement in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, noting that in the last decade Kenya registered tremendous success in curbing transmission despite the continued spread of the disease globally.
"Kenya has recorded a drop in HIV prevalence from a high of 13.4 per cent in 2000 to 6.2 per cent last year," the President Kibaki said, adding that Kenya is one of the countries with the highest number of patients on the life prolonging Anti Retroviral Treatment.
Currently about 460,000 patients are receiving free treatment in public health facilities up from a mere 2,000 in 2003, the President said.
The Head of State, however, emphasized that personal responsibility and behavioural change is critical if the war against the scourge is to be won.
"Despite these gains however, all Kenyans must be alert to the dangers of HIV/AIDS," the Head of State cautioned.
In line with the founding fathers\’ vision of winning the fight against poverty through a growing and equitable economy, President Kibaki informed the nation that last year the country\’s economy grew by 5.6 per cent.
He, however, encouraged Kenyans to make every effort to ensure that the country\’s economic growth remains on the growth path, saying the Kenya VISION 2030 targets a sustained 10 per cent economic growth per annum.
On employment creation, the President said the Government is undertaking initiatives aimed at reducing youth unemployment.
He said gains made on previous initiatives such as Kazi Kwa Vijana and the Economic Stimulus Programmes will be consolidated and harnessed while the lessons learnt will be used to improve future programming.
President Kibaki said the Government will also do everything within its powers to broaden business opportunities available by improving the investment environment in the country.
"The future of our economy will also depend on the ability to venture into business and add value to our products," the Head of State said.
The President said the Government has expanded infrastructure and financial services to support the growth of business and productivity as an effective way of creating jobs for wananchi.
Said the President: "The opportunities are there and I urge Kenyans to take advantage of them and turn them into job-creating and wealth-generating opportunities."
He commended the many young Kenyans who, through their own initiative and enterprise, have been able to nurture companies that have become significant employers.
President Kibaki noted that other young Kenyans have contributed to the provision of public transport through boda boda operations by providing public transport to Kenyans living in parts of the country not easily accessible by other forms of transport.
Saying boda boda have created a source of livelihood for thousands of young Kenyans, the President said the Government will work closely with operators to ensure more safety and avoid deaths and injuries on the country\’s roads.
The President, once again, reminded wananchi that the attainment of Madaraka came with immense responsibility hence they should strive to create a law-abiding, peaceful and orderly society that will result in the economic prosperity for all Kenyans.
Recalling that eight years ago on Madaraka day he called on Kenyans to build a working and caring nation and outlined what needed to be done to make institutions start working again, the President thanked wananchi for their support in building the working nation.
He urged Kenyans to always remember that peace, national reconciliation and healing are key ingredients in building the nation and appealed to them to re-dedicate themselves to nation-building as envisioned by the country\’s founding fathers.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged legislators in the country to join hands in the successful implementation of the new Constitution and to avoid petty wrangles that could derail its implementation or undermine the stability of the nation.
Mr Odinga noted that while the new Constitution heralded a new era in the management of public affairs, more benefits would be realized after the coming general elections.
With regard to rising cost of living and especially the increased prices of essential commodities, the Prime Minister appealed to Kenyans to remain patient as the Government put in place measures to cushion them from the severe effects.