Dear Your Excellency,
We trust that this open letter finds you well and in and in high spirits. We highly appreciate the stability in your Government and especially for the great gains on national security save for the resurgent Kapedo killings.
Allow us to humbly address you on the high cost of living which may have, in part and beyond impending elections, informed your increment of lowest wage earners by 18 per cent.
With respect, however, increment in allowances which hardly match the steep and rising cost of living is a drop in the ocean in achieving sustainable livelihoods of hungry and increasingly angry Kenyans.
In any case, the very move of increasing the minimum wages will push up further unemployment. The employers are equally not cushioned from the reality of unstable and even unsustainable markets.
The high cost of living is unbearable for majority Kenyans and the Government must move with speed to stem further surge. The cost of fast moving consumer goods like flour, milk, sugar and bread is excessive.
In the public domain, the government is doing little or nothing in cushioning the public from the harsh reality of the unprecedented high cost of living.
The prevailing sorry situation calls for urgent intervention from yourself. Lest you forget, your government was elected on a platform of cutting the cost of living. Nearly 5 years later, Kenyans are more poorer and paying, on average double or triple, the cost of key commodities.
Recall words of Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Mr Wilson Sossion in his Labour Day address directed to you – “it is much easier for Kenyans to access you but not (most) of your Cabinet Secretaries”.
Indeed your Cabinet is letting you down fast and swiftly. Take the example in which your Finance and Agriculture Secretaries promised Kenyans cheaper maize flour expected to retail at a maximum Sh119 per 2kg packet.
A month later, Cereal Millers Association seem to dismiss the expectation as your government keeps mum.
No one in your government can categorically state how much stocks are being held in the strategic grain reserves. Casual talk of wanting quality of the same maize, from the millers lobby, heightens speculation that your government is unwilling to walk the talk on cutting the cost of living.
As things stand, it is fair to say that your Government has taken a holiday on consumer protection as cartels take over the all-important food security sector. It follows that your government, is therefore, in breach of Article 46 of the Constitution you swore to protect.
Needless to mention, it is a tall order for you to protect and uphold the sovereignty, integrity and dignity of the people of Kenya if they remain hungry – with a single or no meal at all, thanks to the high cost of living.
Your government supposedly offers huge subsidies to farmers through farm inputs like fertilizers which do not get to them. It’s the middlemen and cartels who end up smiling to the bank as farmers toil in vain.
What is worse is that proceeds from Kenyan farmers is often bought by National Cereals Produce Board late and often at a throw-away pricing which makes commercial farming an unsustainable venture in Kenya.
As a result, many farmers sell their produce to middlemen and not government. They hoard off the maize and sustain artificial shortages.
This eventuality opens floodgates of a poorly regulated and free-for-all duty free imports of maize and other cereals.
In another world, it won’t be business as usual if eggs and fruits from South Africa or Rwanda travel all the way into supermarket shelves, to cost several times cheaper than local eggs or fruits.
The government doublespeak on “buy Kenya, build Kenya” seems to be suspended when it comes to matters of what comes to the plates of Kenyans.
Excessive taxation combined with poor food production, storage, utilization and purchase policies are dimming hopes of stemming the ever-rising food insecurity and resultant high costs.
From the foregoing, it would be fair and appropriate if you considered the following urgent interventions;
- Replace your finance and agriculture secretaries
- Order public access to the strategic grain reserves to establish the actual stocks left and the movements – in and out – to millers including the need to authenticate the quality of maize
- Increase pricing for locally produced food products, discourage open-ended food imports and develop a food security policy and attendant legislation to resuscitate agriculture as a backbone of our economy
- Government need to create incentives for new investors to break up the abuse of market dominance and monopolies enjoyed by the few families in cereal milling cartels
- Enforce the Trade Descriptions Act on the food processing Recommended Retail Prices (RRP) without necessarily attempting to be seen to control market pricing
- Cut high wastage via corruption, practically adopt austerity measures in governmentand direct the accrued funds to mobbing up local maize and food in order to stabilize the prices
- Disband the NCPB and replace it with a more functional and transparent entity.
- Government should have Senate develop legislation to require all County governors to invest at least 5 per cent of their annual allocation to achieving and sustaining food security
- Open-up infrastructure – as basic as murram roads – into the food baskets of the country which remain accessible occasioning a situation of glut in some counties and extreme famine in others
- Fully enact the provisions of Article 46 on Consumer Rights as envisaged by the Constitution.