Members of Parliament (MPs) will be resuming regular sittings for the second session on the 14th of February 2023 with high expectations from a struggling populace awaiting them.
When the Kenya Kwanza coalition ascended into power in September last year, Kenyans had high hopes of getting a reprieve from a dire economic situation, as their manifesto was mainly pegged on lifting this load. However, five months down the line, Kenyans hopes are dimming.
During his campaigns, President William Ruto pledged to ease economic hardships within the first 100 days of his term by reducing the prices of food and other essential items such as cooking oil and petroleum products that had increased sharply, with a two-kilo packet of maize flour a Kenyan staple, crossing the Ksh200 mark for the first time in the country’s history.
The beginning of his term has, however, been marked with the scrapping of food and fuel subsidies and a steep increase in taxes which have both shot fuel and electricity prices through the roof, further squeezing wananchi who are slowly but steadily turning into skeptics. The public opinion is largely that the past five months of this new government have made the cost of living unbearable compared to the previous one that ironically came under heavy criticism over the same by pro-government leaders and supporters.
The only glimmer of hope left lies in Parliament to urgently come up with measures through key law proposals and amendments and that may reduce or get rid of punitive taxes, in totality, on various basic commodities in the country.
Parliament’s resolutions during this new session are critical as they may either alleviate or worsen the current socio-economic situation. The public is looking to their representatives to interrogate policies and regulations that touch on the taxation of petroleum products as the recent high cost of energy has created panic within households and small business enterprises.
Away from matters of the pocket, Members will also be expected to prioritize debate on the President’s proposal (through a memorandum to Parliament) seeking to actualize the Constitutional aspiration on gender parity that is premised on the two-thirds gender rule. Late last year, the President sought the indulgence of Speakers of both Houses, urging them to consider the proposal to avoid a stalemate with the Judiciary, as was witnessed in the previous government.
If implemented, the proposal will raise the number of nominated women MPs in the National by 24 to meet the deficit of 97 women required to meet the threshold set in the Constitution, whereas the Senate will be required to increase the number of nominated female senators by 16.
On effective oversight, members of the 13th Parliament will be expected to fully utilize the oversight channels such as committees and public hearings to ensure meaningful monitoring of the executive, government agencies and county governments to seal corruption loopholes that have been a major contributor to the country’s ballooning debt.
Attention is also drawn to the State-backed Privatization Bill, where Parliament will essentially be excluded from approving the sale of State-owned firms in proposed changes aimed at shortening the approval process for the sale of government assets. Critics have questioned the removal of Wanjiku’s representative from the approval process while Article 1 protects the citizens’ right and sovereign power in all key government decisions including those that involve key state agencies that may have a bearing on how Wanjiku is served.
The question then begs, will MPs cosign this decision that could take away from their oversight role?
As they resume their business next week, Kenyan people are calling for nothing but actions that will lead to the betterment of their lives.
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