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State should also live within its means as Kenyans feel the pinch

 President William Ruto meets KEPSA and KNCCI leaders at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

The recent opinion poll’s revelation that the biggest problem for majority of Kenyans is the high costs of living with no traction being felt since the Kenya Kwanza government took reins of leadership.

The problem is worsened by escalating unemployment, lack of money for spending, high inflation, and depreciation of the shilling. We depend on imported petroleum and its products whose global price fluctuations and transportation costs are too high and unsustainable, negatively impacting the price of electricity, fuel, and cooking gas.

These high energy costs result in high commuter costs, high prices of essential commodities, foodstuffs, healthcare, education, and increased costs of bills and utilities.

High taxation and poor delivery of services at national and county levels fueled by corruption and increased fake products only exacerbate the problem. People are afraid of becoming sick, not only because health professionals are on strike but because the costs of healthcare are beyond the reach of ordinary Kenyans. Parents/guardians of school-going children are hard hit as the fees including university fees have increased exponentially.

By the way, is secondary education still subsidised? Many university students are unable to concentrate on their studies because the high costs of living have made it impossible for their parents/guardians to continue paying tuition and living expenses as they have other children to take care of. So, students have to hustle to remain in school.

To aggravate matters, graduates are no longer assured of jobs and paid work. The high level of unemployment and underemployment have greatly impacted the costs of living and employed few are unable to sustain themselves, their siblings, and their parents/guardians.

Job opportunities have reduced and those that exist especially in the public sector are shared among political elites and their tribespeople and supporters resulting in reduced income and financial insecurity for majority of Kenyans without political ties. Someone recently remarked that the Kenya Gazette looks like an ethnic phone book in which one can easily tell the ethnic community of a Cabinet Minister by reading the names of appointees.

While county governments have brought services closer to the people and greatly enhanced public participation in public affairs, it has also devolved nepotism, corruption and tribalism and created rapid urbanisation and overpopulation of formerly rural centres. Rapid urbanisation and overpopulation have led to high demands for housing in county headquarters for employees thereby exponentially increasing the costs of housing, basic utilities, and transportation.

The locals have also been selling much of their ancestral land, which used to be their main or only source of livelihood. The majority of rural folks do not have jobs or a steady income as they mostly depend on subsistence farming and livestock on small parcels of land where they also grow fruits and vegetables and sell the excess. Many young men, unable to find suitable employment have moved to small urban centres to earn a living. However, due to few job opportunities, some end up drinking, using drugs, and committing petty crimes. Both levels of government are unable to raise revenue and although they are overtaxing and imposing heavy levies on their people, there is no commensurate delivery of services. People are paying high bills for electricity, water some of it unfit for human consumption, gas, petrol, and paraffin, and paying private companies to collect garbage and waste.

The well-to-do are hiring private security to guard homes and private companies in addition to paying for healthcare and medical insurance. The high bills owed by NHIF are making more hospitals and clinics refuse NHIF cards for treatment.

Most counties have poor infrastructure such as poor road networks and non-existent public transportation systems, making transportation expensive and difficult, especially during the rains.

The consequences are delays or stalled movement of goods and persons leading to food insecurity and inadequate nutrition. Climate change, droughts, post-harvest losses, corruption, public theft, and loss of livestock also contribute to the rising food prices and the high costs of living. Everyone is overwhelmed including the government. This is why I agree that the government must learn to live within its means just as we have.


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