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It is costly to be a Kenyan citizen today

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki interacts with passport applicants during his tour of the Immigration Department at Nyayo House, Nairobi on August 31,2023 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

In a bid to convince Americans that the stability of the US lies in their hands, President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural speech on January 20,1961 said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

While this was a rallying call for Americans in a changing political environment consumed by communism, it is a phrase that now resonates with a rather unwilling majority of Kenyans whose economic conditions have deteriorated under an administration that justifies this suffering and sacrifice as necessary for nation building.

Consequently, it has become quite expensive to not only live in Kenya but also to be a citizen.

From birth to death, Kenyans will now fork out more not only to be citizens but also sustain themselves owing to the increased cost of acquiring important documents like birth and death certificates, national identification cards, and passports.

Getting  a new ID that used to be free will now cost Sh300, while processing a birth certificate has been increased to Sh200 from Sh50.

An ordinary passport which was Sh4,500 will now cost Sh7,500

But if you lose it or mutilate it, will now cost you Sh20,000 from Sh12,000. It is the same with ID which replacing a lost one used to cost Sh100 but will now cost Sh1,000.

Additionally, accessing housing which has been made mandatory through the Affordable Housing Levy that deducts 1.5 per cent of gross pay, health whose contribution has been enhanced through Social Health Insurance Fund that demands 2.7 per cent of the same will now be more expensive.

All these is above and beyond the deteriorating economic conditions informed by macroeconomic factors like Russia-Ukraine war, residual effects of the Covid pandemic and a government that is overwhelmed with debt.

Just by enacting the Finance Act 2023, gross pay of all formally employed Kenyans was slashed by 4.25 per cent notwithstanding the falling value of the Kenyan shilling against foreign currency.

Cyprian Nyamwamu, Director, Future of Kenya Foundation, a think tank involved with policy, justice and prosperity matters, notes that some of these happenings are evidence of privatisation of basic services.

“The day basic goods and services were privatised because of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Programs SAP, is the day we threw away the country,” he said during an interview with The Standard’s Spice FM.

He said things that are supposed to be very basic for human dignity and the right to life were taken away and have never been accessible.

“Privatisation of life is how systems fail and is how governance collapses. That is why the poor pay the cost of failed systems everywhere,” he said.

Health and education, as documented by a paper titled The impact of the structural adjustment programmes on Kenyan society published by the Michigan State University, are some of the sectors affected by SAPs.

“Consequently, the quantity and quality of medical and other services has deteriorated substantially, negatively affecting the Kenyan people in general and particularly the poor and other vulnerable groups,” reads the paper.

In his wisdom, President William Ruto, despite opposition, has seen through the enactment of the controversial Affordable Housing Levy at 1.5 per cent of gross pay for every taxpayer.

He has severally justified this deduction on grounds that it is going to create more employment.

“You know that person with no job is the one who pays teachers and the president since they pay tax when shopping,” he said during a church service in Busia County. “If we deduct three per cent of our cash so that you get a job is there something wrong?”

To rectify decades of this challenge, President Ruto’s administration has also enacted the Social Health Insurance Fund which should do away with the National Health Insurance Fund with Kenyans expected to pay 2.75 per cent of their gross pay. The new payments take effect July 1.

Previously, the most deduction was sh1,700. with the informal sector required to pay sh500. in the new law, the amount has been reduced to sh300.

The scrapping off of NHIF has also seen the death of Linda Mama, one of President Uhuru Kenyatta pet projects that provided free maternal health services to expectant mothers and their infant until they finish the necessary vaccination for free.

Edu Afya which was also under NHIF and catered for school going children until secondary school has also met its untimely death with the SHIF.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has linked the scrapping off of Edu Afya to misappropriation of funds.

“The last two years, the Government injected sh4.3 billion into Edu Afya. What is surprising is that all that money is said to have been used on students. Is there any student in Taita Taveta who has benefited?  That is fraud,” she said while at a function in the county.

The CS said while the Edu Afya was a brilliant idea for students in public institutions, it did not make sense for a child to have a cover when the parent back home cannot afford one.

“in the new law, we have scrapped Edu Afya and we have implemented an insurance scheme that caters for the parents and student,” she said.

The implementation of the Competency Based Curriculum which is replacing the 8-4-4 system has also come with an additional cost to parents. As a result, free primary education that was introduced by the late President Mwai Kibaki no longer serves its purposes considering the dozens of requirements students are required to have detailing the teething challenges of this curriculum.

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