You can run but you can’t hide: High cost of living haunts Kenya Kwanza Coalition MPs

  • 14 Nov 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by James Ngunjiri



The reality of the high cost of living which has largely been attributed to the rise in fuel prices now haunts UDA and Kenya Kwanza coalition MPs. The MPs are now demanding that the government urgently deals with the issue before it gets out of hand.

The high cost of living contradicts the Kenya Kwanza coalition manifesto which promised to reduce the cost of living in the country by lowering fuel prices. 

Under the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda, Kenya Kwanza noted that petroleum was Kenya’s single largest import and would remain an important fuel for several decades. “Price volatility is a challenge for consumers and economic stability. It has been observed rightly that tax is a major factor in the high cost of petroleum products,” the Kenya Kwanza coalition manifesto stated.

The coalition in its manifesto pointed out that the recent fuel price escalation was a combination of two factors, global price shocks, which they said are out of control, and fiscal distress. The coalition promised to set up a legal framework to ring-fence the fuel stabilisation fund.

On November 7, during a Kenya Kwanza parliamentary group meeting, convened by President William Ruto as the party leader of UDA and the Kenya Kwanza coalition, at State House in Nairobi, and attended by about 200 legislators, the MPs pleaded with the President to lower the cost of living, stating that they are losing popularity. 

During the meeting, mainstream media outlets reported that MPs told President Ruto that it had become hard for them to even convene meetings and engage their constituents due to the high cost of living, which was affecting Kenyans, but despite the pressure from MPs, the President remained adamant that the status quo remains. 

Finance Act 2023  

In May, Narok Senator Ledama Olekina told Kenyans not to blame President Ruto if taxes are increased through the Finance Bill 2023, instead, blame MPs. In a statement, the senator said MPs should not agree to everything the President says but should instead have their own stand. 

“Don’t blame (President) William Ruto for high taxes, blame your member of parliament! When the fuel tax goes to 16%, blame your MPs. When civil servants are taxed 3% for housing, blame your MPs. They are the ones who are gullible. Instead of saying no they say yes to everything that Ruto wants!” the Senator stated.

A month later, MPs passed the controversial Finance Bill 2023, and within a week, the President had signed the Bill into law. This paved the way for Kenyans to start digging deeper into their pockets to fund the government’s budget. Before passing the bill, there were 87 proposed amendments to the Bill, some of which were approved during the third and final reading by the MPs. Among the most important proposals approved was a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) on fuel, up from 8 percent.   

At least 184 MPs mostly from the Kenya Kwanza coalition supported the bill, except for Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba, while 88 MPs mostly from Azimio la Umoja coalition opposed the bill. The contentious housing levy, which initially had been proposed to be at 3 percent was also passed after it was amended to 1.5 percent of gross pay. It had been converted into a tax. The initial proposal called for the levy to be a savings account that Kenyans could access after seven years.   

The 13th Parliament  

When they were elected last year, Members of Parliament in both the Senate and the National Assembly took the oath of office, marking the beginning of the term of the 13th Parliament, Kenyans expected them to hit the ground running to put in place policy reforms that would address issues of priority to Mwananchi. Key among them was the high cost of living. 

According to Mzalendo, a Kenyan non-partisan parliamentary monitoring organisation whose mission is to promote the realisation of open, inclusive, and accountable parliaments across Kenya and Africa, Kenyans have called on MPs to lower the cost of everyday consumer goods such as fuel, food, cooking oil, and other household items. Coincidentally, this was highlighted among the pledges that President Ruto had promised to actualise within 100 days of being in power.   

“The Kenya Kwanza coalition committed to lowering the cost of living within 100 days by providing agricultural subsidy programs and investing in agro-processing. Many Kenyans would be keen to see how this will be implemented at both national and county level but more importantly the sort of legislative interventions MPs would propose in response to this,” Mzalendo stated.