Senate to push downward review of fuel prices, says Maina

Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina

By: Angela Maina  @MountKenyaTimes

The Senate Energy committee will push downward review of the pump prices, Chairperson Ephraim Maina has said.

Speaking in Mathira yesterday, the Nyeri Senator said the government must implement price control to cushion Kenyans from exorbitant prices of essential commodities amid public outcry over the latest review.

“As a committee, we have summoned Energy Cabinet Secretary Alfred Keter and his Petroleum counterpart John Munyes to shed light on what happened and why they want to implement such changes,” Senator Maina said.

“I want to assure Kenyans that these prices will be reduced because we cannot allow Kenyans to suffer more in the face of COVID-19 tribulations,” he added.

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) on Tuesday hiked a litre of super petrol by Kshs. 7.54, diesel by Kshs. 7.94 and kerosene by Kshs. 12.97. The new rates will be effective for a month starting Sept. 15.

Senator Maina termed the pump prices as unrealistic, saying they were out of reach for most Kenyans.

He said the committee had been prevailing upon government officials in the ministries of energy and petroleum to avoid increasing fuel prices in a bid to cushion the public against the economic slowdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We as a committee have been prevailing both ministries not to increase pump prices, however this time no one sought our opinion and that is why as a country we are in this mess,” he said.

Senator Maina at the same time called on the government to expedite a regulatory framework on price control to protect consumers.

“For a very long time Kenyans have had to bear with unregulated increase of essential commodities this must be dealt with through this law whose bill I sponsored in the tenth parliament,” said Maina.

Motorists in various parts of the country have shown their displeasure with road blockades in an attempt to force price cuts.

Other public transport operators are now warning of fare hikes if no deal will be reached in time.

Leaders’ take

Deputy President William Ruto on Thursday asked the Ministry of Energy to work with the relevant agencies and the Parliamentary Committees to address the steep rise in fuel prices.

The DP said that fuel price increase will translate to a general rise in the cost of living at a time when the country is struggling under the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ruto asked public officers to get to work and offer the right advice to the government so that “right decisions on people issues are made”.

“We must team up and manage this situation that threatens to go out of hand,” Ruto said.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party Leader Raila Odinga also called for immediate lowering of the pump prices, saying the pandemic has made life unbearable for many Kenyans.

His sentiments were echoed by Amani National Congress (ANC) Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi, who warned of further effects on the general economy.

“The increase in pump price is affecting all Kenyans. The high cost of fuel will affect all sectors of production, ultimately increasing the prices of goods & transport. The Covid-19 pandemic has already made the cost of living unbearable. The Government shouldn’t burden us more,” said Mudavadi.

Former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi have also faulted the government’s move to significantly hike fuel prices.

“The increase in prices of diesel, petrol, and kerosene indicates the prices of other commodities will go up. Kenyans are already suffering and this will make them suffer more,” said the Wiper party leader.

“As a country whose economy is driven by diesel, there is no doubt the manufacturing industries will shift the cost burden to ordinary Kenyans. These Kenyans, by a large extent being the consumers, will painfully bear the brunt of the tax incidence as a result of the exorbitant cost of fuel, which has hit a historical high,” said Senator Moi.

A section of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) church also urged the government to review the prices to shield Kenyans from the high cost of living.

“In the midst of gloom, our people need hope. The price of fuel has to come down. If it stays this high, everything will be affected, further punishing Kenyans who have already been battered and bruised for the last two rough years,” said Archbishop Arthur Kitonga.

A section of MPs have also lamented the fuel hike and called for action against EPRA and the Ministry of Energy- which surprisingly only reviews the prices while the operations are domiciled in the Petroleum and Mining Ministry.

Interestingly, the MPs who are now calling for control of fuel prices are the same who approved a controversial Bill that introduced new taxes on fuel.

The National Assembly passed the legislation that increased Value Added Tax (VAT) on fuel to eight per cent as well as introduction of the Petroleum Development Levy last year which increased fuel prices by a further Sh5.

There are seven levies and two taxes that Epra takes into account when setting fuel prices, which have been blamed for the high cost of petroleum products.

The levies account for 48 per cent of current petrol costs.

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