Anger, anxiety as more Kenyans react to steep rise in fuel prices

NATIONAL |

Traffic snarl up on Mombasa Road which inconvenienced many many travelers and people who were going to work. [Maxwell Agwanda,Standard]

Public uproar yesterday greeted the State’s move to increase fuel products' retail prices to historical highs, with many Kenyans terming the move unwise.

Kenyans who spoke to The Standard expressed anger, frustration and fear over the high cost of petroleum products, noting that the State had hit them at the worst possible time.

The high fuel prices have been effected at a time Kenyans are grappling with adverse effects of Covid-19 that has dented their earnings. It will also have a ripple effect on critical sectors of the economy.

Around the country, Kenyans are looking up to the government, possibly to subsidise the cost of fuel or forego some taxes and levies. They also want Members of Parliament to bail them out through legislation.

This is even as Speaker Kenneth Lusaka yesterday summoned the Cabinet secretaries for Petroleum and Energy to explain the rationale behind the high cost of energy on Tuesday next week.

Nandi Senator Samson Cheragei had sought a statement from the Senate Committee on Energy on the high fuel prices. “As we talk, Kenyans are suffering. People in Nairobi are walking to work because they cannot afford to pay fares. The cost of food prices will go up if diesel prices are high,” stated Mr Cheragei.

Cheragei also wanted the committee to explain why prices in neighbouring countries such as Uganda were lower than in Kenya.

The increase in fuel prices has also rekindled debate on the high taxation of petroleum products and the work of the Petroleum Development Levy that is supposed to cushion Kenyans.

In the new pricing announced on Tuesday, super petrol will retail at Sh134.72 per litre in Nairobi, a six per cent increase from Sh127.14 per litre.

Diesel will retail at Sh115.6 over the next one month, also a sharp increase from Sh107.66. Kerosene, largely a poor man’s fuel for lighting and cooking, has also gone up substantially, increasing by Sh12.97 per litre to Sh110.82.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) attributed the hike to the withdrawal of a price stabilisation mechanism that suppressed an increase in pump prices.

Eddah Wamaitha, a trader at Nairobi’s Ngara market said higher fuel prices would hit hard her greengrocery business. She will have to take less profits due to high transportation costs - not oblivious of the impact it has on her customers, whose spending power will be eroded.

She is torn between reducing the portions she sells and increasing pricing, wary that any of these moves may see her customers seek options. “The high fuel cost is affecting our business in a big way… it is eating into our margins. When going for our goods, you have to pay for transport for yourself and your goods,” she said.

This is in addition to other increases along the value chain. Farmers incur high transport costs, which is factored in the price that Ms Njau pays for the groceries. Another Nairobian said he was likely to be walking home after work if public service operators increased fare.

Various leaders weighed in the debate. Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka decried the sudden increase in fuel prices, saying it would hurt Kenyans more. He urged government to consult over such drastic matters that affect citizens and called on Kenyans to speak out.

ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi expressed concerns about high taxes and Epra’s pricing formula, noting that both should be reviewed. “We call for the revision of the formula used in pricing fuel; review the tax regime on fuel products,” he said.

Additional reporting by Jacob Ngetich and Brenda Kerubo

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