“I am a fighter not a quitter,” Prime Minister (PM) Liz Truss said recently. Hours later the PM ate her words. After a fiery exchange pitting her and Leader of the Opposition/Leader of the Labour Party Sir Kier Starmer, which lasted for seven minutes, she resigned.
A tumultuous 44-day stint made Truss Britain’s shortest serving premier. Truss won the September polls, succeeding the scandal-riddled Boris Johnson. Now, another Obama-esque Rishi Sunak, who has a Kenyan history, has been picked to succeed her. What an English political drama!
Truss won the premiership at a time Britain was on the cusp of a recession, inflation and industrial unrest. She pledged to “ride out the storm” by introducing tax cuts to boost the economy, tame rising energy costs and streamline state-run NHS.
On September 23, Truss' Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled far-reaching tax cuts to extricate the nation from recession. A risky gamble. Her administration bypassed the Office for Budget Responsibility, arguing that there was no time for an audit. The gambit failed spectacularly. The financial market took a hit, plunging the pound. Mortgage market soared. Pension funds neared insolvency. In a bid to save face, she fired the Finance minister.
As if that was not enough Truss's closest ally, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, quit over use of unsecured personal emails in ministerial duties.
Truss failed to tame runway energy costs. With winter looming poor citizens will not afford to pay their energy bills. She criticised Labour Party’s plan to freeze energy bills for six months only to adopt the same proposal as her policy.
Truss reversed the national insurance increase and made steps to tackle ‘militant labour unions’.
Tough economic times continue to haunt many administrations. The Democratic Party in the US is facing serious revolt in swing votes states in the ongoing midterm elections. Energy seems to be the major headache as it is the cog of production.
Here at home, energy prices continue to soar. EPRA announced new fuel prices, a move that was criticised by consumers. What consumers fail to understand is that the government is completely stretched.
President William Ruto must be cautious not fall into same pit as the UK premier. The president must be stingy with promises. Most importantly, he must not overpromise especially on areas of economy that are determined by global factors such as fuel and fertiliser prices.
CS for Agriculture Mithika Linturi has admitted that it is not sustainable for the government to reduce fertiliser prices any further unless with subsidies.
Likewise, CS nominee for Finance Njuguna Ndung’u has painted a grim picture. He has revealed that dollar circulation in the financial market is in the hands of private individuals. This puts government in a precarious position, especially when it comes to foreign trading.
President Ruto had pledged to reduce the cost of living. But the price of unga remains as it was before the elections. Prices of other household commodities continue to soar. One such commodity is sugar.
The highly anticipated Hustler Fund continues to be repackaged. Initially presented as a business grant, the president has now warned that the money will not be free.
Should president slow down on promises? Pundits differ. While those amenable to Ruto’s regime call for patience and time, others want action and less talk. Political pundits agree that as long as the Ukraine-Russia war rages on, Kenyans should brace for tougher times. Worse is that Kremlin intends to do gas pipeline repairs over the winter - a tactical but diabolical war strategy by Kremlin to punish the West.
What can Ruto’s regime do? The president has no choice but to borrow. Ruto must also swallow the bitter pill by continuing Uhuru’s subsidy programmes to keep the cost of living down. If not, the public will soon turn against him. Lastly, Kenyans must start to live within their means because the winter cold in Europe will have a direct impact on our economy.
Mr Kipruto is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]