Kenyans’ shrinking wallets: Taxes pushing commodities out of reach

More than ever before, Kenyans’ purchasing power has been severely eroded by taxes, increased statutory deductions, runaway inflation and a Shilling in freefall.

This is rapidly dimming the quality of life for many Kenyans as incomes and take-home pay continue to shrink.

Headline inflation stood at 6.78 per cent in September, with food prices the biggest contributor. Despite the headline inflation rate being the lowest in 16 months, the country has only just recovered from near double-digit inflation rates of 9.6%, 9.5% and 9.1% in October, November and December 2022 respectively.

Cumulatively, the reduction in the inflation rate hasn’t spared the general cost of commodities from rising, coupled with an increase in taxes and other statutory deductions.

For example, the cost of a litre of petrol rose by 22%, from Sh178 in January 2023 to Sh217 in October, mainly due to the increase in VAT from 8% to 16%.

Meanwhile, a kilowatt of electricity has risen sharply by 28% between January and October, with only LPG falling by 6%. Other key food and commodities have seen price increases of between 16% and 36%.

What’s more worrying is the erosion of family incomes with the introduction of new statutory deductions such as the housing levy and changes to National Social Security Fund and National Hospital Insurance Fund deductions.

In January 2023, the dollar was trading at 123.42 to the shilling, compared to a 21.6% jump to the current exchange rate of 150.07.

Coupled with a host of other taxes that Kenyans have to contend with, as well as rising expenses such as school fees, Kenyans have had to forgo luxuries, real or perceived, in order to make ends meet and get through the day with minimal positive change to their incomes.

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