President Ruto gets low grades on tackling inflation, extreme poverty


President William Ruto. FILE PHOTO

President William Ruto received failing grades for efforts to tackle inflation and extreme poverty in his administration’s first 100 days in office, according to an opinion survey that underlines the tough assignment of turning around the economy.

An Infotrak poll conducted on December 21-22 gave the President a grade of 39.6 out of 100 on the push to make food affordable, 42 on tackling inflation and 49.6 on improving the lives of low income earners.

Infotrak labels a score of below 50 as poor while grades between 50 and 60 are average and calls for improvements.

President Ruto took the helm on September 13, inheriting a litany of problems ranging from burgeoning debt to growing hunger caused by one of the worst droughts in decades.

He has announced a wide range of measures to help reduce the cost of living and boost food production, including importation of duty-free free maize and rice as well as cheap fertiliser, but shed little light on how he plans to address the nation’s debt.

Dr Ruto had a score of 55.8 percent for meeting his pledge of introducing the hustler loans that had by December 23 lent Sh10.7 billion at an annual interest of eight percent.

He romped to power on the back of the so-called bottom-up economic model, a pro-poor programme that seeks to channel government resources to industries that can create the most jobs, such as farming.

The President scored 55.3 percent on allocation of cash to counties, but his overall grading on economic pledges stood at 49.2 percent, pulled down by concerns over inflation and extreme poverty.

Read: Inflation hurts spending power of consumers

His grading on governance pledges, appointment of women to top jobs and infrastructure stood at 55.9, 52.5 and 59.9 respectively, offering him an overall score of 52.1.

“President Ruto needs to work on lowering the cost of living and making food more accessible as these are very key issues for Kenyans,” said Infotrak CEO Angela Ambitho during the release of the poll, which interviewed 840 adults across the 47 counties.

Agriculture, Kenya’s biggest economic sector and employer, contracted for a third straight quarter in the three months to June, reducing cash flow in the economy. The worst drought in at least 40 years has left over five million people facing hunger, according to the United Nations, as agricultural output declines.

The drought is also fanning inflation that’s at a five-year high and constraining consumer spending together with soaring energy and grain prices stemming from a weaker shilling, Russia’s war with Ukraine and the lingering effects of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Annual inflation has been above the central bank’s 7.5 percent ceiling since June and quickened at a faster pace in October at 9.6 percent — a level last seen in 2017 — before receding to 9.5 percent in November.

Also read: Producer inflation hits highest points since 2019

Kenya is also among nations including Sri Lanka, Peru, Ecuador and Iran that face a heightened risk of civil unrest as governments grapple with the aftershocks of the surge in inflation, according to an index developed by risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

A third of Kenya’s middle class are just a shock away from sliding into poverty, pointing to a precarious position of workers whose spending power has been ravaged by sky-high inflation and the worst drought cuts farmers’ earnings.

This is the verdict of the World Bank in a forecast that risks dealing a major blow to investors that queued to open shops in Kenya encouraged by the rising disposable incomes.

Middle-class Kenyans have been among the biggest beneficiaries of an economic boom Kenya has witnessed since 2005, which has seen the country grow an average of 5 percent annually.

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