EDITORIAL: Fuel tax impasse needs sober and quick solution

An attendant fills a tank
An attendant fills a tank of a matatu at a Nyeri petrol station. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The increase in fuel prices following implementation of the 16 per cent VAT has begun to have the predicted detrimental effects on the economy.

Even as bus fares in many routes across the country have shot up, towns across the country have also been hard hit by fuel shortage caused by striking truck drivers who are demanding a rise in their margins to meet increased operational expenses. The drivers have refused to transport fuel to retail stations until their demands are met.

While the government has rushed to try to resolve the matter, some of the tactics it is adopting are wanting. Threatening to revoke the licences of the drivers is no prudent way to address such a serious issue.

First, the truck drivers seem to have genuine grievances considering that the prices of fuel are controlled right from wholesale, distribution to retail stations. Therefore, choosing to threaten them is ill-advised.

The government ought to be quick in finding an amicable way to deal with the matter that is potentially devastating to the economy.


Secondly, the drivers are within the law in their decision to stage the strike. Kenya is a democratic country and the Constitution unequivocally protects the rights of aggrieved individuals to picket so long as in doing so they don’t trample upon the rights of others.

This is the norm in all progressive and civilised countries. Applying strong-arm tactics to resolve a genuine industrial action flies in the face of the democratic ideals that we claim to cherish.

If the government were to make good its threats of cancelling the licences, the affected drivers could easily go to court, and from the look of things the law is on their side. Who will pay the damages for such a legal action? The same taxpayer shouldering all manner of levies.

The increase of fuel prices is already a big economic setback without adding the issue of a shortage. It is fuel that keeps the economy firing from all cylinders and anything blocking its smooth flow must be urgently dealt with.

Aside from increased fares, millers have also stated that they plan to raise the prices of maize and wheat flour.

Things are bound to get more precarious if the government does not respond wisely to disputes that are bound to emerge as fuel taxes bite painfully harder.