Kenya: Ruto rejects pressure to re-introduce subsidies as new year begins

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 3 January 2023 11:38

Kenya's President William Ruto at State House in Nairobi, Kenya November 9, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Kenya’s President William Ruto says he will not bow to pressure from the public and opposition to re-introduce subsidies on commodities like food, fuel, and electricity, unlike his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.

In his New Year address to Kenyas, Ruto said his move to suspend subsidies when he took power in September was the right decision, terming them unsustainable and a risk to the economy.

“We had to do away with those subsidies or they would cost our economy big time,” Ruto said.

Ruto also blames the former government for introducing the subsidies for political reasons, adding that the decision was not informed by the science of the economy.

“When I came into office, I found that some decisions were made for political expediency because we had an election,” he added.

Opposition demands

The Opposition coalition, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya, led by veteran politician Raila Odinga, criticises Ruto for removing the subsidies; a decision it says continues to make life unbearable for the majority of Kenyans.

To pressure the Ruto administration, the coalition says it will continue to call for the restoration of fuel, electricity, and food subsidies.

The coalition leader in the National Assembly, Opiyo Wandayi, says the current regime continues to fail Kenyans, with the promises made in the last elections, particularly to empower them economically.

“During the campaigns, President Ruto said this would be Kenya’s economic moment. Let him cushion Kenyans against the ravages of a melting economy,” says Wandayi.

Disappointment

The majority of Kenyans had hoped as 2023 begins, the high cost of living would come down, but following Ruto’s confirmation, many feel they will have to wait longer for things to improve.

Carolyne Mutai, a mother of three children, working in a beauty shop in the poor neighbourhood of Makongeni, East of Nairobi, says she had hoped that the price of maize flour, used to prepare the staple food Ugali, would come down considerably.

“In 2022, I struggled to feed my children, it seems nothing will change this new year. I’m disappointed, “ she tells The Africa Report.

This January, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) announced that Kenyans will pay 15% more for electricity despite President Ruto saying the prices will remain the same.

Onyango Ochol owns a small posho mill in Athi River, Machakos County, South of Nairobi. He says with the announcement that electricity prices have increased, he worries that it might lead to the collapse of his business.

“Last year my business consumed 50 units for two days for KSh1,000, but with this increase, I might close down,” he says.

A report by Infotrak Research and Consulting firm in the last week of 2020 assessed the performance of Ruto in his 100 days in office. It faulted him for failing to deal with the high cost of living by reducing the prices of food and basic commodities, which continue to rise.

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