Kenya says taking steps to curb high food, fuel prices
The Kenyan government on Wednesday assured citizens that it is taking both short and long term measures to cushion them from increased food and fuel prices.
President Mwai Kibaki and Premier Raila Odinga also appealed to Kenyans to remain patient as the government is put in place measures to cushion them from the severe effects.
In his address during the celebrations to mark the Independence Day, Kibaki cited the zero rating of duty on paraffin and a drastic reduction of duty on diesel as some of the government’s efforts to alleviate the hardships being faced by Kenyans.
“I am fully aware of the hardships being faced by Kenyans due to increased food and fuel prices,” President Kibaki said in Nairobi when leading the nation in marking the country’s 48th Madaraka Day celebrations.
He assured that the government is building the strategic grain reserves to 8 million bags of maize to ensure ready availability of food in the country.
“We intend to hold this maize stock at all times, to mitigate impacts of the cycle of droughts,” President Kibaki said.
For the parts of the country currently experiencing drought, Kibaki emphasized that the government will expand relief food programs in those areas.
He said concrete strategies are also being put in place to facilitate the moving-away from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture and several major dams are being constructed around the country to increase water availability.
Kibaki noted that his government is actively engaged in the development of other sources of energy such as geothermal, coal, solar and wind as its long term approach to addressing high costs of energy.
Speaking amid shouts from a section of Kenyans who attended the celebrations lamenting over the high cost of basic food commodities especially maize flour, Odinga sought to console the crowd that he also knows of and feels the economic crunch and hunger that is facing Kenyans.
“The government is working on helping citizens deal with the current situation by reducing cost of maize flour, as well as kerosene and diesel so as to reduce fare and housing rent costs,” the prime minister said.
He added that when the budget is read next week, it will reveal the government’s development plan for next fiscal year 2011- 2012.
Odinga also said that the government is distributing foodstuffs to starving Kenyans faced with the brunt of the current drought situation and the distribution efforts will also target poor people across the country.
President Kibaki said plans are also underway to put in place up to three months fuel storage facilities, adding that more competition will be encouraged in the oil industry to reduce the drastic changes in fuel prices currently being experienced in the country.
Kibaki said that the agriculture sector achieved a growth rate of 6.3 per cent last year up from negative 4.6 per cent in 2008 and noted that the government will continue to support farmers and livestock keepers in their activities.
He stressed that the government will also continue with the livestock off-take program in areas hit by drought. “These are short term measures to cope with the drought situation and mitigate on increasing food prices,” he said.
Other measures being taken to boost the agriculture and livestock sectors include the implementation of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness program, the Small- scale Horticultural Marketing program, irrigated food security economic stimulus program and construction of abattoirs in Northern Kenya.
The president added that the government is also promoting the fishing industry through construction of fish ponds in several constituencies around the country. “These programs, in conjunction with the steps we are taking to upgrade roads, electricity, and marketing infrastructure in the rural areas, will help transform agriculture into a profitable commercial venture. This will ensure food security and create employment for our people,” he said.
Kibaki expressed satisfaction that the country’s primary, secondary and university education sectors have greatly expanded with close to 9 million children enjoying free primary education while the total university enrollment has reached the 200,000 mark.
“I am proud of the many Kenyans who, after work and on weekends, go to institutions of higher learning, to advance their knowledge and skills, so that they can make more significant contributions to our country,” president Kibaki said.
In order to consolidate the gains in the education sector, the president said a taskforce has been established to review education, training and research. The taskforce will propose an appropriate education management system at the national and county levels.
Kibaki also said the government has invested massive resources to provide improved services to Kenyans.
Saying the country now has 7, 260 public health facilities compared to only 1,200 in 1997, the president observed that many of the new public health facilities have been developed using the Constituency Development Fund and the Economic Stimulus Package. “These initiatives have brought healthcare closer to the people across the country,” the president said.
In addition, President Kibaki said the government has stepped up immunization against preventable diseases and is providing the service free of charge throughout the country in public health facilities.
As a result, the president said deaths among children under the age of five years have reduced by 36 per cent.
Besides immunization, President Kibaki said major strides have been made in the anti-malaria campaign with 11 million mosquito nets having been provided so far to Kenyan families as a defensive barrier against malaria infections. “Deaths from malaria among children less than 5 years of age in malaria endemic districts have dropped by 44 per cent. As a result, our country has not experienced malaria epidemics in the last 8 years,” he said.
The president also lauded the country’s achievement in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, noting that in the last decade Kenya has registered tremendous success in curbing transmission despite the continued spread of the disease globally. “Kenya has recorded a drop in HIV prevalence from a high of 13.4 per cent in 2000 to 6.2 per cent last year,” President Kibaki said, adding that Kenya is one of the countries with the highest number of patients on the life prolonging Anti Retroviral Treatment.
Currently about 460,000 patients are receiving free treatment in public health facilities up from a mere 2,000 in 2003, he said.
The head of state, however, emphasized that personal responsibility and behavioral change is critical if the war against the scourge is to be won.
“Despite these gains however, all Kenyans must be alert to the dangers of HIV/AIDS,” the president cautioned.
He urged Kenyans to always remember that peace, national reconciliation and healing are key ingredients in building the nation and appealed to them to re-dedicate themselves to nation- building as envisioned by the country’s founding fathers.