A new survey has just confirmed the economic woes many Kenyans are facing as the cost of living skyrockets. Half of all Kenyans are financially stressed and cannot fulfil their obligations.
Nearly half of them are in the grip of financial stress as incomes have stagnated since 2019, forcing many into debt. The Financial Services Monitor of the Old Mutual Group has revealed that five out of 10 Kenyans or about 48 per cent feel stressed.
The rising cost of food and other basic necessities, including fuel, has made lives unbearable. Indeed, many cannot put a single meal on the table for their families daily. And yet they have other financial needs.
For those in salaried employment and the informal sector, the government’s pursuit of its programmes to implement its election campaign pledges is worsening the situation. The increased National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) and the Housing levy are eroding their finances.
What is being described as a raid on workers’ payslips, shrinking their incomes has not endeared the people to the government they elected just over a year ago. Informal sector workers earning Sh20,000 a month cannot make ends meet.
About 60 per cent say their incomes have dropped below what they earned before the Covid-19 pandemic several years ago that ravaged the country and the world. With purchasing power down, businesses are struggling to stay afloat. In fact, quite a number never recovered from the heavy Covid blows. The creation of more productive jobs holds the key to recovery.
The economic burden is increasing for the working class. The survey shows that nearly 50 per cent of adults are taking care of both their children and parents. The financial situation is also taking its toll on physical and mental health and yet many do not even have health insurance cover.
But Kenyans are also increasingly appreciating the need for savings as they seek side hustles and second jobs to make ends meet. The government should continue to invest in infrastructure, increase domestic energy production and address the bottlenecks and challenges that drive up the cost of doing business. It must relentlessly fight corruption, which diverts resources from development programmes to line the pockets of a few well-connected people.
The government has outlined its big priority areas as agriculture and food security, affordable housing, increased share of manufacturing, and universal health coverage. Support, especially from the private sector, and the public will be the key to socio-economic success.