High Cost of Living Hinders Kenya’s Effort at Poverty Reduction
Nairobi, Kenya – Efforts by the Kenya government to halve extreme poverty by 2015 as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals may not be achieved, owing to high poverty level and rising unemployment rates.
The Minister for Planning and Vision 2030, Wycliffe Oparanya, sounded optimistic but noted that key challenges stand in the way of the effort to help bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the country.
According to a 2006 study, poverty levels dropped to 46 per cent.
However, following the post-election violence that gripped the country early in the year coupled with a poor weather that resulted in low agricultural produce, the statistics might change.
“We currently do not have up to date figures on the number of people living below the poverty line, however, a census earmarked for 2010 will assist in giving the probable number of those living in extreme poverty.” Oparanya said in an inter v iew after launching the popular version of the African Peer Review Mechanism – APRM, Kenya Progress Report at the KICC.
The APRM progress report indicates key challenges facing Kenya in its effort to achieve economic growth, including youth unemployment rates and that of female youth as high as 27 per cent of the total population, while national unemployment is pegged at 12.7 per cent.
According to the minister, government efforts to reduce the high poverty levels are also being undermined by cartels in the business community bent on ensuring that the cost of living remained high.
He cited the fuel prices that are being maintained high by oil marketing companies, which in effect is pushing up the cost of living.
“The government is putting a lot of resources into the National Oil Corporation (NOCK), to import petroleum products directly in order to regulate the high fuel prices,” Oparanya said.
During the launch of the report, UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya Aeneas Chuma reiterated the body’s commitment to work with the Kenya government in dealing with the challenges but called for the implementation of Agenda 4 of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Accord in order to achieve social harmony and economic growth.
Oparanya at the same time took a swipe at weak legislation in the formation of the Poverty Eradication Commission (PEC) that has resulted in the slow pace at which poverty eradication measures are being addressed.
Kenya acceded to the APRM in March 2003 and was the third country to be peer-reviewed after Ghana and Rwanda.
President Mwai Kibaki was reviewed by his peers at the APRM heads of state forum in June 2006 in Banjul, Gambia.
The report launched Tuesday, will be discussed next January at the Africa Peer Review Forum to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Nairobi – 26/11/2008