NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – Mathira Member of Parliament Ephraim Maina is calling for the speedy implementation of the Price Control (Essential Goods) Act, 2011.
The Act, which was signed into law on Friday by President Mwai Kibaki 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.
Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, the Mathira legislator said it will cushion Kenyans against from the prevalent high cost of living.
“The government should immediately and without further ado implement this Act. It should be enacted and we should start seeing its effects in the market,” he stated.” It should also with various players in the field come up with what they will declare the prices that should be charged to Kenyans.”
He pointed out that it will also prevent manufacturers from taking advantage of consumers.
“We are suffering because of various cartels. There is no free market atmosphere in this country. If it is foodstuffs, it is actually being supplied by a few individuals; if it is cooking fat, the same is true. If it is fuel that we use, it is also controlled by a few companies,” he said.
The assent of the Act came amid economic turmoil in the country, with rising commodity prices and the Kenyan currency at its lowest in more than a decade.
President Kibaki initially declined to sign the Bill into law in September last year, on the basis that the initial law went against Article Three of the World Trade Organisation’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 giving 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 the 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.