NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 16 – President Mwai Kibaki on Friday signed five Bills into law key among them the Price Control (Essential Goods) Act, 2011.
The Price Control Act, which was introduced by Mathira MP Ephraim Maina, provides for the regulation of prices of essential commodities in order to secure their availability at reasonable prices.
It empowers the Finance Minister to declare any goods as essential commodities and determine their maximum prices in consultation with industry players.
The move comes amid economic turmoil in the country, with rising commodity prices and the Kenyan currency at its lowest in more than a decade. Earlier this year, the government undertook a similar measure to halt rising fuel costs when it placed a monthly cap on the maximum price of pump prices for petroleum.
President Kibaki initial declined sign the Bill into law in September last year, on the basis that the initial law went against Article Three of the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that warned that internal price control measures by contracting parties could be harmful.
Parliament had passed the Bill with a clause allowing the Finance Minister powers to set maximum retail and wholesale prices of essential goods including fuel, maize flour, wheat, wheat flour, rice, cooking oil, sugar, paraffin, diesel and petrol.
“This obligation places a duty on Kenya to avoid measures including price controls, which would have prejudicial effects on other contracting parties supplying imported products to Kenya,” President Kibaki said in memorandum submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The President instead recommended that the Bill be amended to allow Finance Minister to only set maximum prices of gazetted essential commodities upon consultation with the concerned industry.
Manufacturers and other stakeholders indicated price controls would be part of the overall strategy to boost the economy. They noted that price controls could have a potentially negative effect with producers such as farmers failing to grow crops because of lower prices.
The result would be both reduced availability and higher prices.
At the same time, the President has assented to the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Act, 2011, the Tourism Act, the Nurses (amendment) Act, 2011 and the Appropriation Act, 2011.
On its part the Tourism Act operationalises and creates the national tourism strategy as well as establishes tourism regulatory, development and marketing bodies.
Among the institutions captured in the Act include the Tourism Regulatory Authority, the Tourism Protection Service, Kenya Utalii College, the Kenya Tourism Board, and the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
The Act also establishes Tourism Research and Monitoring Institute, the Tourism Fund, Tourism Finance Corporation as well as outlining licensing and tax provisions.
With regard to the Nurses (Amendment) Act, 2011 the amendment repeals section 4 of the Nurses Act to make new provisions in the membership of the Nursing Council of Kenya to include among others the Director of Medical Services, Director of Education, the Chief Nursing Officer, the Attorney General and other persons appointed by the concerned minister.
The Nurses Act makes provision for the training, registration, enrolment and licensing of nurses; to regulate their conduct and to ensure their maximum participation in the health care of community and for connected purposes.
On the other hand, the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Act, 2011 makes provision for the training, registration and licensing of veterinary surgeons and veterinary para-professionals.
The signing of the Appropriation Act authorizes government to withdraw and spend money from the consolidated funds towards the service of the year ending 30th June, 2012 for public services as approved by the National Assembly.