By Remie Otieno
Azimio La Umoja-OKA presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga this week unveiled his fiscal plan – campaigning on an economic revolution to shore up the middle class, review taxes on mwananchi, lower electricity costs and restructure the country’s debt portfolio among other issues.
In his 41-page manifesto, Mr Odinga also swore to empower small business owners by implementing favorable legal policies should he ascend to power in the August 9 polls.
“We will work towards lowering the cost of electric power as well as review the tax policy, legal, institutional and regulatory framework, anchored on best practice principles and to promote tax stability and predictability,” declared Odinga.
The Mwamko Mpya policy, loosely translated as new awakening or the new dawn, will be former Premier’s campaign stimulus meant to persuade his followers, as he attempts to charm his way into the Presidency – the fifth trial for the 77 – year old who also served as Langata MP for close to three decades.
“The COVID pandemic, the resultant global recession and the Russia-Ukraine war continue to negatively impact Kenya’s economy. Subsequently there is a need to improve the management of the macro and micro economic environment,” reads in part the Azimio manifesto launched last evening.
The economic revolution, he insisted, was at the centre of the AZIMIO commitment, and one that is anchored “on specific foundational elements which are necessary enablers for the successful implementation of the policy frameworks, programs and projects planned under the economic revolution for shared prosperity.”
Key among areas of concern for the Azimio outfit will be to lower prices of food items such as maize flour, milk and wheat products which have noticeably skyrocketed since the year began, straining the majority of Kenyan households that are still dredging from the economic hardships left by Covid-19.
The Coronavirus pandemic – presently on its fourth wave in Kenya, triggered an unprecedented global economic recession in modern history, and is measured as a crisis of greater magnitude than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In his public discourse to the nation, Mr Odinga highlighted the ravages caused by the pandemic whose impact he noted have negatively impacted the social fabric of the country’s society and fiscal policy, exposing the country’s inequality and poverty levels among struggling Kenyans.
The aforementioned factors coupled with corruption and poor debt management had slackened the country’s economic recovery efforts, according to Odinga who reiterated that the two elements would form the basis of economic revolution for the ODM leader.
“We will reduce the pace of debt accumulation and develop policies that support sustainable debt levels and terms and ensure that all debts are procured only for the purpose of viable projects that will finance the repayments and debt servicing and secure inter-generational equity,” promised Odinga.
Further, Odinga who last month picked social justice lawyer and former legislature for Gichugu Constituency Martha Karua as his running mate, promised to push for new legal policies and regulatory reforms to improve local manufacturing sector, in what is seen as an upgrade to ‘Buy Kenya, Build Kenya’ initiative that was launched under President Uhuru Kenyatta is his first term in office.
That way Odinga noted, in addition to several bilateral and multilateral trade treaties Kenya has signed with other countries, would offer local manufactures an opportunity to access new regional and international markets using their locally manufactured products.
“Our commitment will be to create an enabling business environment to ensure competitiveness and address barriers to regional and international trade through effective diplomacy and trade representation,” he reiterated.
On inflation, Odinga promised to promote interest rates that encourage savings and spur demand for credit in the private sector by controlling and putting in check inflation rates at manageable levels.
Kenya’s inflation rate accelerated to 7.1 percent in May, from 6.5 percent in the previous month – the highest reading since February of 2020, as the cost of food products continued to rise sharply, partly affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Consumer inflation quickened for the fourth consecutive month hitting a high of 6.5 percent in April, up from 5.6 percent in March with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) noting that such a rise was the highest seen for more than eight years.
Similarly, the weakening shilling against world major currencies has broadened that elite status to a significant swath of the Kenyan private sector.
In a bid to address those concerns and soften the inflationary pressures – the country’s apex bank – the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) stretched its financial safety net wide – raising its policy lending rate by half a percentage point to 7.5 percent from 7.0 percent last week to stem rising inflation and stabilize the shilling which closed yesterday’s trading at Sh116.90 against US dollar.
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