Even as Kenyans feel the government has been deaf to their pleas not to increase taxation, Treasury has noted that the leadership has indeed listened to Kenyans and put in place measures to alleviate the high cost of living.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Njuguna Ndung'u, said during the budget-making process, the high cost of living was top of the key concerns raised by Kenyans.
Other challenges that Kenyans highlighted are high rates of unemployment, high tax burden, wastage of public resources and high public debt.
Ndung'u said the State was addressing the issues, but added that it might take time to fully address matters such as the cost of living. He said in the short term, the government has waived import duty on essential food items to lower the cost of food.
In the long term, he said, the State will focus on increasing food production locally as well as look into other areas such as investment in cooking gas facilities that will lead to reduction in the cost of fuel.
Its approach to subsidising production is largely seen in the fertiliser subsidy programme, which it expects will lower the cost of food in the country.
Through the programme, Ndung'u said, the government had availed fertiliser worth Sh15 billion going for Sh3,500 a bag, down from the Sh6,500 that is in the market, indicating a subsidy of Sh3,000 per bag.
He said the government has so far registered five million farmers and issued 2.5 million e-vouchers.
“As a result, Kenyan farmers have been able to plant at least 200,000 acres of additional food and used two million more kilogrammes of seed and that is expected to improve the agricultural yields,” he said.
On cost of food, Ndung'u said that, “The government has granted duty waiver for importation of key food products effective from February 1 and August 6 this year. This has been done to bridge food stocks deficit and will lower food prices.”
The food items include white maize, soy beans, rice, yellow maize and assorted protein concentrates.
The CS also said the government has been reforming the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), which is expected to enable it to deliver on its promise to provide healthcare affordably.
“The government has reformed the NHIF to meet the urgent need of Kenyans at the bottom of the social economic structure to actualise its purpose as a social medical insurance facility. In addition, the government has committed to deliver Universal Health Care to ensure that every Kenyan attains dignified healthcare at a minimum subscription fee,” he said.
Ndung'u said the government has started a review of the country’s petroleum sector with the aim of deepening use of cooking gas. The reform is expected to see more players enter the sub-sector
This is even as Treasury proposed exempting cooking gas from Value Added Tax in the Finance Bill 2023. VAT on LPG is currently charged at eight per cent and scrapping it is expected to offer some relief to households.