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November 19, 2018

Kenyans Must Look At High Cost Of Living Together With Its Causes

To solve a problem, one must not only perceive it correctly but also unearth its cause. Without establishing the cause, a problem cannot be solved.

According to an opinion poll by Ipsos Synovate published in the Sunday Nation of March 15, 2014, 50 per cent of Kenyans interviewed cited the cost of living as their worst problem.

An earlier opinion poll revealed 70 per cent of Kenyans feared cost of living would be worse this year than last year. Subsequently, more poor Kenyans complain cost of living is not only unaffordable but also unmanageable. Consequently, some Kenyans are already looking for leadership that will liberate them from a life unaffordable.

But what and who are Kenyans blaming for their cost of living? Most Kenyans see and blame some causes of their problems and not all. Some see symptoms, not the causes. More see trees not the forest.

From the current cost of living, many Kenyans perceive and blame devolved and central governments for their exorbitant taxes and greed of leaders. They see governments enriching leaders and a few Kenyans while milking the poor to the point of sucking out blood.

To their shock, all this is happening with the implementation of the new constitution that was meant to save them from owes of the old constitution and devolution that was meant to rescue them from the tyranny of central government.

While people may not have an explanation for everything that is going on, they expected, after the implementation of the new constitution life should be easier not more difficult and after the devolution, people should be happier and richer, not more miserable and poorer.

They completely don't understand the logic of having a new constitution and devolution making their lives worse. Of course they are being told what they are going through are the teething problems that will be ironed out in the course of time.

But institutions of these same constitution and devolution are also making leaders and a few people so rich that they count their newly earned money in billions, not millions.

Surprisingly, people are blaming themselves for passing the constitution without reading, understanding and closing all loopholes in the new constitution that could be used to exploit them as is now happening. But even as they now acknowledge that it is extremely reckless to believe and trust leaders blindly, it is nightmarish for them to imagine that the powers that the new constitution and devolution bestows on new leaders have yet to be exercised fully and they might live with their new problems for a long time.

But people are not asking for loopholes in the devolution and new constitution to be closed because they wish to be taken back to the old oppressive Kanu days or back to the enslaving Egypt of colonial Pharaohs as it were. They are simply asking for the new constitution to liberate them from poverty and not bleed new sharks to devour them.

Apart from the weaknesses of devolution and new constitution that leaders are using to exploit the people, there are other problems Kenyans need to focus on together with cost of living. In the Ipsos opinion poll, the most shocking revelation was while 50% of Kenyans are more worried of rising cost of living; only one per cent worried about poverty or could associate it with a rising cost of living.

If this opinion poll is to be believed, Kenyans don't understand that poverty means lack of money, the adequacy of which would eliminate high cost of living for them.

If people are rich and have money, they can easily afford high cost of living. Cost of living rises for those whose poverty is rising, not for those whose wealth is increasing. Indeed, real cost of living is for the poor not the rich, qeven if the poor feel rich though sleeping hungry.

The relationship between poverty and cost of living is like the relationship between pain and disease. If you ask a sick person about his worst problem, he might say pain without mentioning the disease that causes his pain. But without disease, there would be no pain.

Another cause of problems and cost of living for people is capitalism that people never see on the radar of their problems. But it allows a few people to use economic institutions that they own and control to enrich themselves by exploiting people who may not realize that what makes them poor is what makes others rich.

Surprisingly again, in the poll, only 5% would mention bad leadership as one of their worst problems. Yet bad leadership is a worse problem than cost of living. It is bad leaders that allow cost of living to go up, allow businesses to raise price of food, matatus to raise their fares, schools to raise fees, landlords to raise rents and so forth.

Finally, people must rank corruption as a worse problem than cost of living. When they don't, they are lost. When leaders steal Sh330 billion a year from state coffers, diseases kill people in hospitals without medicine, government charge higher taxes and shut down people's businesses, they hire fewer people, raise prices of food with VAT and more people can no longer buy food.

Kenyans must rank their problems correctly or they shall waste time fighting small foxes when more dangerous lions and leopards are wrecking havoc unattended.

Poll of the day