Why we need an honest conversation about the high cost of living in Kenya


Inflation continues to play out in different ways across different markets. PHOTO | POOL

This past week, I have had discussions with several people. Each of them complains about the difficulties of life.

Coming after the end of the campaign periods long ended, it is clear that these conversations are not about politics.

While the state of the economy was a campaign issue, it is clear that citizens were not fully appraised of the true state of affairs.

They lived on the basis that after August 9, irrespective of who won, their life would be better.

Six months after the elections, the reality is dawning on Kenyans that there is hard work ahead to address the fundamental challenges facing the country.

For ordinary Kenyans, the price of basic commodities is very high. One needs only look at their monthly expenses.

Affording basic commodities is increasingly an illusion. During the end of last year, I visited the village for a few days. What intrigued me was the price of two kilogrammes of maize. Knowing very well the living conditions in my village, it is scary when during harvest the selling price is Sh120.

This alone was a sign that the next few months would be very difficult. The ordinary person in Asumbi will not be able to afford three meals. The prices will definitely move towards the Sh200 mark in a few months.

Secondly, is the drought situation in Kenya. A friend of mine shared the experience of visiting a part of Kenya that had not received rain for a few years.

This and the government's initiatives to respond to drought are an indication of the dire conditions.

Climate change impacts are not only real, they are increasing. While there continues to be an international discourse on mitigation, adaptation and climate financing, the local impacts are being felt by ordinary citizens across the country.

That life is expensive is therefore not in doubt. What is required, therefore, are candid discussions on the options to address the challenges.

It is important that we recognise the reality of our situation. It is said that when you are in a hole, you should stop digging.

Our focus must consequently be on taking practical steps to get out of the hole. This requires recognising the fact that government requires additional resources to be able to run.

The key sources for these are taxes, loans and grants. The debate for the country must be to assess the current mix of these three.

This conversation will need to be honest and realistic. It must take into account the needs of the country, the ability of citizens and the performance of the global economy coupled with the impact of any choice for Kenya in the medium to long term.

As we do so, it is time to accept that turning our fortunes around will take time and will require the efforts of both leaders and ordinary citizens.

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