Unga subsidy won't return, President William Ruto tells Raila Odinga

President William Ruto making his speech at Rukenya in Gichugu, Kirinyaga County on October 15, 2022 during the launch of Thiba Dam. [Standard]

President William Ruto has ruled out the return of unga subsidy amid calls to lower the cost of living.

Speaking in Gichugu, Kirinyaga County on Saturday, October 15, during the launch of the Sh7.8 billion Thiba Dam, the president said the unga subsidy programme was unsustainable.

His remarks come on the back of calls by the opposition, led by Raila Odinga, to reduce the economic burden on Kenyans.

On Tuesday, October 11, Odinga met members of the Bunge la Mwananchi in Nairobi's central business district, where he raised concern about the high cost of living, accusing President Ruto of turning a deaf ear to Kenyans' plight.

"I'm experiencing the high cost of living, just like many other Kenyans. The price of many commodities have shot up. The costs of unga, cooking oil, transport and rent have all gone up. This week, the prices of cooking oil will spike, again. During the campaigns, Ruto made a lot of promises, including lowering the cost of living. He pledged to reduce the cost of unga from Sh200 to Sh70," said Odinga.

"The prices of commodities have since soared, but Kenyans' incomes have largely remained the same, if not lower," added Odinga.

Responding to Odinga on Saturday, Ruto said the Azimio leader was pushing for a return of unga subsidy, which he says is unsustainable.

"I heard them (opposition) saying that the cost of unga has remained high. I want to tell them that they were responsible for the sharp increase in unga prices. During their partnership with the previous administration, they did nothing to reduce the cost of unga. Instead, the price of a 2kg packet of unga shot up from Sh100 to Sh200, and that was under their watch," said Ruto.

"They're now pushing us to return to unga subsidy. However, that's not the right approach. When the unga subsidy was in place, the government spent Sh8 billion on it. Did you, people of Kirinyaga, receive the subsidised unga?" he posed.

"We're not going back to unga subsidy. We'll, instead, channel the Sh8 billion to fertiliser subsidy. We'll use that money to buy six million bags of fertiliser that will retail at just above Sh3,000, and not Sh7,000 which is out of reach for many farmers," said the president.

"We are going to teach them agricultural economics. They want to subsidise consumption, but we'll subsidise production instead," he said.

On Saturday, the president commissioned the Sh7.8 billion Thiba Dam whose construction started in September 2018.

Ruto said the dam will help increase Mwea rice production from 25,000 acres to 35,000 acres.