Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kibaki declines to sign price control Bill

By JOHN NGIRACHU

President Mwai Kibaki has refused to assent a Bill that seeks to control the prices of essential goods.

Parliament received the President’s refusal via a memorandum sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly, which he read out to MPs Wednesday afternoon.

The President said in his memorandum that by setting out the maximum prices of goods considered essential, Kenya would be going against agreements it has signed under the World Trade Organisation.

He also said the setting of maximum prices and the accompanying service charges for these goods would be impossible to implement and spark an increase of unscrupulous traders.

These, said the President, would impose on Kenyans the same problems the Bill introduced by Mathira MP Ephraim Maina sought to avoid.

It had set out the Finance minister’s role in setting out the prices of maize, maize flour, wheat, wheat flour, rice, cooking fat or oil, sugar, paraffin, diesel and petrol.

But the President said: “Apart from going against the policy of liberalisation, this clause also violates the fundamental principle of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on National Treatment, of which Kenya is a contracting party.”

The agreement by the WTO prevents member states such as Kenya from setting price controls that would hurt exporting countries that sell the same goods.

“This obligation places a duty on Kenya to avoid measures, including price controls, which would have prejudicial effects on other contracting parties supplying imported products to Kenya,” the President said in the memorandum on the bill.

The President also disagreed with a provision in the bill to fix maximum prices of goods and maximum service charges to be made for the goods.

President Kibaki however argued that “it will be difficult to police and may lead to an increase in unscrupulous traders and ultimately cause a disadvantage to the citizens.”

The bill was passed by MPs on June 24 and immediately caused a storm as manufacturers said it would kill industries and slow down the growth of the economy.

Alcohol Bill signed

The good news for the alcohol industry is that the President has assented to the Alcohol Control Bill, which allows the brewing and sale of chang’aa and other traditional liquors.

It will see the Government legalise the production, sale and consumption of the products and is expected to radically change advertising, bar licensing and drinking hours.

The Bill’s assent comes in the wake of alcohol-related deaths in Shauri Moyo, Kibera, Laikipia, Thindigua in Kiambu and Mutindwa Estate in Nairobi.

It sparked protests from established brewers but received the support anti-drug campaigners as it prohibits the promotion of alcoholic drinks with the aim of increasing consumption.

This means that the seasonal beer promotions where consumers buy more to increase their chances of winning will come to an end.

Alcohol will no longer be sold in supermarkets, kiosks and other shops that are not designated places of sale and consumption such as bars and restaurants.

According to the National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority, Kenya’s liquor market is worth an estimated Sh42 billion and the formal market only accounts for 60 per cent of this.

Naivasha MP John Mututho, who sponsored the Bill, the Sh16 billion generated by the chang’aa (liquor) business could now form part of the government’s annual revenue.

The President also rejected a Bill to repeal the Indemnity Act, which restricts legal proceedings in respect of acts committed by public officers or by members of the Armed Forces.

It is applicable to the former Northern Frontier Districts and covers acts committed between 1963.

Its passage by Parliament was seen as a boost to the work of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission as it would allow it to look at the Wagalla Massacre.

President Kibaki also refused the Animal Technicians Bill introduced by MP Joseph Lekuton and passed on July 8.

He also assented to the Commissions of Inquiry (Amendment) Bill, which makes it mandatory for the commissions of inquiry to submit reports to Parliament.

President Kibaki also signed into law the Prevention of Organised Crime Bill

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