Kenyans watching closely how State will deal with fuel prices

Prices of basic commodities and petroleum products have all been on steroids while incomes have remained stagnant. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

There is a palpable cloud of despair. Families that have always struggled at the base of the pyramid are now groaning in anguish. Like Yeats observed in the poem, ‘The second coming’, the centre cannot hold. A cursory glance at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) reveals that in the last one year, we have seen a rise in CPI by 3.2 per cent.

Many households have had to readjust their spending, but still, that is not enough. Taxes, prices of basic commodities and petroleum products have all been on steroids while incomes have remained stagnant, thereby occasioning loss of purchasing power. And that is not all. The public healthcare sector across the country is stalling.

You will encounter sluggish, unmotivated health personnel. If you are lucky to be attended to, you will learn that the hospital has run out of drugs and/or other consumables. The patient will then be asked to go buy the drugs or the medical consumables from other private stockists. I will avoid mentioning the disjointed human resource management in the healthcare sector. The delay in salary and promotion has killed the morale of many medical practitioners.

All these issues and more can make us to start pointing accusing fingers. But before we do that, have we asked ourselves what our role in creating this sad state of affairs is? What can we do at individual levels and collectively to correct the course? I read someone's comment on social media that if mass action were called today, he would gladly join in. The gist of the comment was that he did not join the protests the last time they were called by the Opposition.

The coming days demand that we pull together as a people and lift one another up in these difficult times. We must ramp up our compassion capacity so that we extend help to our neighbours who neither have food nor shelter. What is the role of government? Someone may ask. Claims-making as the only legitimate recourse to right our wrongs as a country does not offer instant results.

The government, while making decisions, does not operate in a silo. Its actions are taken within the prism of other global actors. For example, the government–to-government deal that was sold as a silver bullet, was conceived as guardrail against the forex rates that were demonstrating withdrawal symptoms. Sadly, that did not work. Further and significantly, we are still do not know what understanding our government got into with the IMF, if the words of the Energy Cabinet Secretary are anything to go by.

All these will certainly have a bearing on how the next elections will shape up. Many actors will watch how President William Ruto will navigate. Is he going to be another politician who thrives in mundane politics that is fixated with accumulation of power for powers' sake, or is he going to take drastic measures to become the people's defender? For a government that intimated on the campaign trail that it had a clear understanding of the plight of the forgotten masses, an increasing disaffection and disillusionment is the last thing it wants on its hands.

Disillusioned voters sent George Hubert Walker Bush home when he reneged on his famous ‘’Read my Lips’’ promise. Even a spectacular performance at ‘Operation Desert Storm’ could not save him. As such, Ruto must tell the country the sacrifices we must put in place to stabilise the prices of petroleum products and other commodities. This might require him to revisit his manifesto, then publish a clear National BETA paper with clear key performance indicators.

This is important because governance as a prosaic venture may fail to excite the electorate as much as the poetry of the campaign. It is therefore much easier to rally the citizenry to support government initiatives when the already delivered outcomes are pointed to them as opposed to when they only hear big talk, but they continue to sink into poverty.

-Mr Mwaga is the convenor of Inter-Parties Youth Forum. [email protected]

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