More pain for Kenyans as fuel prices hit all-time highFri, 15 Sep 2023 14:58:02 GMT

The cost of fuel in Kenya hit a record high on Friday after the energy regulator revised pump prices, adding to the economic hardship facing millions of people.The announcement by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority has brought the retail price of a litre of petrol to an unprecedented  more than 200 Kenyan shillings ($1.36).Kenyans already face a harsh cost of living crisis with rising prices for many staple goods, a raft of new taxes and a plunging shilling.A series of opposition protests against the government of President William Ruto and his economic policies were staged this year, some descending into deadly violence.Under the price regime that took effect Friday and will remain in force until October 14, a litre of petrol in the capital Nairobi has risen by almost 17 shillings to 211.64 shillings ($1.44), while diesel will cost 200.99 shillings.In response, fares for matatus — minibuses used for transport by a large majority of Kenyans — will be going up too, with the Matatu Owners Association announcing a 20 percent increase nationwide, media reports said.Government ministers have blamed in part the cut in oil output announced earlier this month by major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia that has sent global crude prices soaring to 10-month highs.”There’s nothing much we can do… certainly the pain is heavy, it’s not going to be easy,” Energy Minister Davis Chirchir told parliament’s energy committee.Trade and Industry Minister Moses Kuria also warned on X, formerly Twitter, that Kenyans should expect pump prices to go up by 10 shillings every month until February.Fuel prices have been on the rise with the removal of subsidies in line with demands by the International Monetary Fund and the doubling of VAT on fuel products in a deeply unpopular Finance Act that was signed into law by Ruto in June.The legislation provides for many new and increased taxes which the government says are needed to improve public finances and ease the national debt burden.A Nairobi court is due to rule in November on a legal challenge to the Finance Act by a number of petitioners who say it is unconstitutional.- ‘Life is deteriorating’ -Media reports say the government is considering further tax hikes, including raising VAT and duties targeting farmers and car owners among others, according to a Treasury strategy review up to 2026/27.Many Kenyans have accused Ruto of breaking promises made on the campaign trail for last year’s election, when he pledged to improve the lot of ordinary people.In a statement marking Ruto’s first anniversary as president this month, the opposition Azimio La Umoja Coalition said his first year had been a “grand disaster”.”One year later, all indicators point to the fact that life is deteriorating not improving,” said Azimio, headed by veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga who lost to Ruto last year.”The cost of every item that is basic to life has gone up.”Although inflation in Kenya fell to 6.7 percent in August, over the year petrol prices increased 22 percent, electricity nearly 50 percent and household staples such as sugar and beans by 61 percent and 30 percent respectively.