Cost of Living Now Before National Dialogue Committee

13 mins read

The first question that every Kenyan is asking is what the heck was on the agenda of the NDC if the cost of living, excessive taxation and outright starvation of millions of Kenyans who can’t afford food and other basics were not on the list at all.

It makes no sense because Kenyans from all walks of life including myself have made presentations to the committee specifically on some of the actions that need to be taken to deal with the cost of living and alleviate poverty in the country.

In fact, in their very invitations for public participation, NDC listed the cost of living as the number one agenda. Was that just a ploy to cheat Kenyans?

The Opposition team in the National Dialogue Committee has announced a breakthrough in its push to have the cost of living form the agenda of the ongoing talks.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who leads the Azimio team in the talks announced Tuesday about the deal noting it has been agreed upon by both parties.

“The National Dialogue Committee has been able to make great progress on the agendas tabled by both parties. We are now handling the critical matter of the cost of living,” Kalonzo said in a post.

He stated that they have since signed off letters inviting experts “who will help navigate through the matter of great national importance.”

The team is currently on a retreat in Nakuru for a week-long negotiation on the sticky issues which included the cost of living.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga insisted Sunday in an event in Kitengela that reducing the cost of living is top on the coalition’s agenda in the talks.

He noted this is Azimio’s first demand in the talks, before any other thing.

“Tunaongea na hao watu lakini cha kwanza ni gharama ya maisha lazima irudi chini. Hio ni sharti number one,” he said.

I know the NDC has called for input and submissions from experts and other Kenyans but let us start with the most obvious cost of living burden that all Kenyans know in real life and have begged the Ruto government to do something about which is the excessive taxes on Kenyans and how that impacts their cost of living every day.

I put only two proposals forward which I believe goes to the heart of the issues of real action to make basic needs affordable to Kenyans. All Kenyans are experts on how hard it is to feed their families at this time.

Now what to do?

The first one is that the government should remove the additional 8% VAT on goods and services in Kenya which will reduce the VAT from 16% to 8%.

Then the VAT on fuel should be eliminated altogether at this critical time. This will be a big game changer for Kenyans starting from the fact that 16% VAT on fuel alone is driving the prices of everything beyond the reach of many Kenyans.

So if the Kenya government can do something positive to reduce fuel prices that will affect the prices of everything including boda boda and food prices because food is produced and transported using fuel and the increase in fuel prices is transferred to the consumers of those goods and services.

There are 9 taxes in total charged on petroleum products in Kenya today.

These are; Excise Duty, Road Maintenance Levy, Petroleum Development Levy, Petroleum Regulatory Levy, Railway Development Levy, Anti-Adulteration Levy, Merchant Shipping Levy, Import Declaration fee and finally Value Added Tax.

So of the Sh. 211 Kenyans pay per litre of petroleum products Sh. 140 goes to the Kenya government as a result of the litany of those 9 taxes the worst of which and easiest to deal with is take off the 16% VAT and if things improve down the line maybe the Kenya government can put something like 4% total on petroleum as VAT. Keeping all these Levies with the newly added 16% VAT is economic suicide for the country and it is going to cost lives and chaos in Kenya.

Number two let us deal with food production in our country. Our biggest problem right now and for so many years has been about the production and availability of basic food and other daily needs for Kenyans. Like Unga. Sugar. Cooking oil. Bread. Cooking gas. Mafuta Taa. Transport of everything. Nyumba. Hakuna Daktari. Hakuna Hospitali. Hakuna Maisha. Lipa Tax Ndio moto. Until when?

Those are the questions the NDC has to deal with now that they have been given one more month in this case specifically to deal with the “Cost of Living”.

Let me say one thing.

When politicians talk about the “cost of living” they imply it is an incident that can just be eliminated by talk. No. The “cost of living” impossibilities in Kenya are and have to be addressed by the NDC because Kenyans live with it every day. NDC has one month to deal with the cost of living but millions of Kenyans live with that every day of their lives. Time to deal with it.

And God forbid, if they come up with sensible and realistic solutions to the real problems Kenyans face they will be heroes and heroines for the country and the people of Kenya. What a chance in history for the nation. Bring it on.

Now we have to deal with real issues in food production in Kenya. So in our Issue number two.

Plough The Land Program:

The people who invented Oxen farming in Kenya must rest in peace as legends of our agricultural technological revolution over the generations. Without this form of farming our ancestors, grandparents and in my case parents would have starved to death.

But now in our country this kind of farming is dead because it cannot work for anybody. Here is a plan.

  • Develop a National Agriculture and Food Production program.

Right now many Kenyans have idle land where they don’t grow anything. People don’t have tractors to plough the land in time. They do not have the right seeds to grow maize, rice, avocados or anything else, they do not have fertilizers.

In fact, Kenyans are saying that the government-provided fertilizers are limited to specific communities and tribes that the current government thinks are friendly to them. That is scary for our nationhood.

Let Kenya build a system of agriculture and food production where your tribe does not matter, remove the idea of shareholders in government resources because Kenya is one country and all Kenyans pay taxes to the government that must work with every Kenyan regardless of who they vote for in any election.

  • Every Kenyan with a piece of land for farming should have access to ploughing tractors at the right time.

I know that because I own a ploughing tractor in Kenya at my home. It is crazy at the beginning of the farming season. And even worse the rains makes the roads so bad that for many farmers no tractor can reach their land and plough it for crops.

Hand digging of land can’t work now, can it?  Oxen ploughing is gone I mean even oxen are gone.

So how do Kenyans plough their land to produce food and do everything else to add to what our lands, rivers, lakes, magnificent wildlife, and great peoples everywhere already offer the country?

I know about ploughing in Kenya because I own a ploughing tractor in my home town. It cost me Sh 3 million as a second-hand machine from Nakuru. My nephew took it to work immediately. Then he had to buy a water tank from Eldoret for Sh. 1.8 million to sustain the farmers and the construction people he was working with. And then a trailer for Sh. 1 million.

Even that covers a small portion of the farmers who need him when the season is on. Right now it is Sh 3,000 – 5,000 to plough one acre of land and most Kenyan peasants cannot afford that.

The biggest problem small-scale family Kenyan farmers face is that they cannot plough their land. They cannot dig it by hand and the oxen farming of the old days is history. So people are starving with their land lying fallow right in front of them.

Until and unless the Kenyan national government and the counties figure out how to assist peasant farmers to plough their land and plant crops yearly starvation and the high cost of living will remain permanent in our country and all the talk about climate change is just comedy to entertain politicians.

We have to use every piece of land in our country and plant something on it. Plant food crops. Plant vegetables. Plant fruits. Plant trees. If every piece of land in Kenya has something valuable planted on it we shall have won the battle to reduce the cost of living and shall have defeated climate change in our country.

Plough The Land Program is my proposal for our national and county governments. The two levels of government must set up a program where every small-scale farmer in Kenya will have an affordable way to plough their land. Then get them seeds and fertilizers and we are on to the stage of a country that can feed itself, export food and grow to the next economic level.

Can the Kenya government put all that Sh. 25 billion allocated to El-Nino to helping Kenyan farmers all over the country plough their land and plant crops now that El-Nino is not coming to Kenya. That is enough money to set up an agricultural infrastructure across the country for decades and it will finance itself as the farm produce gets into the market. That is when Kenya will be able to talk about food security.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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