Inside Raila, Ruto grand plans to arrest rising cost of living

Presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga (left) and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga are embroiled in a cut-throat competition on how to reduce the high cost of living, seen by experts as a key election issue in the August 9 poll.

In their ambitious manifestos, the two presidential front runners have outlined how they intend to bring down the cost of living, with both of them promising an urgent review of the price of basic commodities in their first 100 days as well as big plans to mechanise agriculture and reduce post-harvest losses.

Both of them have admitted that Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet at this time when the prices of basic commodities like maize flour, cooking oil among others have skyrocketed, hence the need for the next government to roll out various interventions to cushion citizens from the worsening situation.

Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) of DP Ruto and Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya are all cognizant of the need to revolutionise the agricultural sector in 100 days in office to enable Kenyans put food on the table.

Their policy documents seem to have some points of convergence when it comes to how to revive the agricultural sector and address the woes facing farmers currently.

While launching his manifesto on Thursday, DP Ruto said agriculture is the only fertile place to invest to create more jobs for the unemployed as well as reduce the high cost of living.

He also disclosed that when expanding the agricultural sector, it would also be the path to increase the tax revenue.

DP Ruto who is currently an outsider in his own government as well as spearheading the bottom-up economic model has promised that he would prioritise investments in agriculture to increase food production locally and dissuade the country off the expensive food imports.

The country’s second in command, who has since ran from the shadows of Jubilee administration over the deteriorating economy, has blamed handshake for the current dire situation in the country while wooing Kenyans that he has a plan and solution to the problems facing the nation.

Dr Ruto says that providing certified seeds and fertiliser will see farmers increase productivity hence getting the country off the hook of deficit.

“Agriculture offers the quickest payback period for investments. This is because, in many cases, there is no new capital investment required. Increasing production only requires addressing the cost, quality and access of inputs — animal feeds, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides among others — and providing farmers with the working capital to buy adequate supply of the inputs,” said DP Ruto.

“Food accounts for 54 per cent of household expenditures and poor households spend 60 percent and more. Agriculture has the highest employment multiplier, that is agricultural growth creates more jobs in other sectors than any other sector, owing to its strong forward and backward linkages to other sectors of the economy,” he added.

He has said abandoning the Big Four Agenda of President Kenyatta to focus on Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is the main reason why the country has a high rate of inflation, noting that those citing the war between Ukraine and Russia are just looking for excuses.  “Investing in agriculture, a farmer now producing 10 bags an acre because they're struggling can produce 20 to 25 bags if we support them as required. By capitalising their operations, they can double their production and can sell at a lower price to the consumer and the challenge of the cost of living is not too scientific. The challenge of high cost of living can be dealt with by investing in agriculture, period! These explanations about Ukraine, I don't know what, are tall tales,” the DP explained.

“The high cost of living in Kenya can only be resolved by raising agricultural productivity. This will increase farmers’ earnings per acre and an excess product in the market will lead to an immediate impact on the pricing to the consumer.”

Mr Odinga, on the other hand, has also promised goodies to the farmers to increase production, hence food security.

Mr Odinga says that the country cannot manage to deal with high cost of living if the challenges facing the agricultural sector are not addressed within the shortest time possible.

“The sector however faces a number of challenges ranging from high cost of inputs, poor quality of agricultural inputs, dependency on rainfall, drought, inappropriate technology, outdated tools and equipment, fragmented agricultural land, negative attitude towards agriculture among the youth, poor infrastructure, poor storage, and limited access to credit for farmers,” he said.

He added: “The Azimio commitment will be to therefore transform the sector through the use of affordable Kenyan manufactured machinery, to be more efficient, improve productivity and create employment through harnessing youth demographic dividend.”

Unlike his opponent DP Ruto, the Azimio boss has admitted that the high cost of living in the country is due to global challenges like the Ukraine-Russia war but promised that if elected President, he will sort out the mess by cutting down on government expenditures.

According to the ODM chief, budget adjustments would enable the government to grant subsidies to some of the essential products such as fuel, which determine the cost of other products.

“You can make some adjustments, when you for example cut down on some expenditures and focus on feeding the people, making it much more bearable for the local people in the country,” said Mr Odinga recently.

“We are really just talking about basically just essential commodities like the cost of unga, sugar, cooking oil, fuel. You can look at the budget and make some adjustments in terms of expenditure, both recurrent and development.”

Mr Odinga, who is making the fifth stab at the country’s top seat at a time when he enjoys government support, said his administration within 100 days in office would work with local and foreign companies supplying the essential products to develop a cut-out plan that would see them subsidise some of the costs while remaining afloat.

Apart from providing cheap farm inputs to the farmers to achieve food security, the former premier also promised credit access to farmers.

“Improve access to affordable credit facilities for food and livestock production,” he said.

DP Ruto underscores that the country has to reduce importation of edible oils, palm oil, rice and wheat by empowering and assuring local farmers of ready market.

“Three food commodities, edible oils, wheat and rice, are consuming an equivalent of 25 percent of our merchandise (goods) export earnings. We have the capacity to produce a bigger share of our consumption of both edible oils and rice competitively,” he said.