Before you vote: truth, half-truths and lies


Before you vote: truth, half-truths and lies

Kenya has among the highest youth unemployment rates, a 2016 World Bank report found

Starting this week, Nation Newsplex will be checking claims by political candidates in the lead up to the August 8 General Election. Is what they are saying true, out of context or just plain false? This week, we check claims on unemployment, food security, power sharing and rent increases.

UNEMPLOYMENT

During his acceptance speech as NASA flagbearer Raila Odinga said that “unemployment is at an all-time high.”

Taken literally, that would mean that the country's unemployment rate has never been higher.

Kenya has among the highest youth unemployment rates, a 2016 World Bank report found. Unemployment among Kenya’s youth aged 15-24 stood at 17 per cent compared to six per cent for both Uganda and Tanzania, according to the report.

In other words, one of six Kenyan youth is unemployed, a ratio that is almost triple that of the two Kenya’s neighbours.

In 2016, the economy generated a total of 832,900 new jobs of which 85,600 or 10 per cent were in the modern sector while 747,300 or 90 per cent were in the informal sector, according to the 2017 Economic Survey.

It is worrying that new jobs created in the modern sector, which is the source of well-paying jobs, dropped drastically by a third in 2016, compared to the previous year.

In his Labour Day speech President Uhuru Kenyatta said that in the last full year wage employment in Kenya has grown by over 11 per cent. But data from the latest Economic Survey shows that wage employment in the modern sector grew by a meagre three per cent from 2,478,000 in 2015 to 2,554,300 in 2016.

According to the Commission for Higher Education there were 71,347 University graduates in 2015, equivalent to 57 per cent of jobs created in the modern sector in the same year. They had to compete for the job with college graduates from the same year and also past graduates from higher learning institutions.

It is estimated that about 800,000 youth enter the labour market every year, which is equal to 96 per cent of all jobs created in 2016.

“Kenya’s growing labour force is not being put to productive use, which in turn is hurting growth,” states the World Bank report titled Kenya Country Economic Memorandum: From economic growth to jobs and shared prosperity.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the national overall unemployment rate is 11 per cent. However, the highest ever unemployment rate since 1991 was 12 per cent, in 2009. Based on the data analysed here it is not possible to conclude that unemployment in Kenya is at its highest ever. UNPROVEN

FOOD SECURITY

The preamble to the food security section of delivery website set up by the President’s Delivery Unit states that the government’s efforts to make food cheap and available to all Kenyans are bearing fruit with various initiatives aimed at supporting farming, livestock rearing and fish production initiated.

More farmers are accessing subsidised inputs to lower their cost of production and boost earnings.

Despite the progress Kenya has made in reducing hunger, it is among 50 countries where levels of hunger remain serious or alarming, reveals a 2016 Global Hunger Index.

According to the index, Kenya’s value of 22 places it at number 72 out of a list of 118 countries. The study, which was completed by the International Food Policy Research Institute, does not include developed countries because they have extremely low hunger levels.

The country has been in the midst of drought since last year. In March the Kenya Red Cross issued a media alert which indicated that three million people needed food assistance. The Red Cross announcement followed a Government report which revealed that 2.6 million people are in need of food, double those who were in need in August 2016. Of that number, 42 per cent, or 1.1 million were children.

While the government has blamed the famine on failed rains many experts say that the real problem is poor planning and over reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

But even where food is available the prices of basic goods, particularly food and fuel have been soaring this year. In May a 500ml packet of milk spiked by 20 per cent to Sh65 from Sh54 in January.

In January, a two-kilogram- packet of maize flour sold for about Sh120 but by March the same packet cost about Sh154, a 28 per cent jump.

In an attempt to bring down the cost of food, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich waived import taxes on maize and removed VAT taxes on bread and maize flour during his Budget speech.

The move was expected to reduce the prices of these staples by 16 per cent if retailers passed on the tax break to consumers.

But consumers are yet to benefit. The price of the same packet of maize dropped slightly to Sh122 towards the end of April only to rise to about Sh144 the following week.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that overall inflation rates in the last two months have broken records that had stood for almost five years. In March the inflation stood at 10.3 per cent year-on-year — the highest in the last four years and 10 months, when it stood at 12.2 per cent.

The March rate was slightly higher than February’s when the year-on-year inflation rate stood at 9.04 per cent the highest rate in four years, nine months. FALSE

POWER SHARING

“They told us they believe power is for the sharing by the elite. That is why they have erected a high table of five gentlemen, all of them older than Uhuru Kenyatta,” – William Ruto on May 6, 2017


The Deputy President uttered these words at the Jubilee National Delegates Conference at Bomas of Kenya, apparently quoting the Nasa April 20 rally held at the same venue. While the Deputy President may, in fact, believe the principals of the opposition wish to share power amongst themselves, it is false that any one of them actually said they believe power was for “sharing by the elite” on April 20.
At the Nasa rally Mr Ruto is referring to, here is what Raila Odinga said:
“Jubilee keeps on saying Nasa are just interested in power and jobs for the boys. We tell them, governance is about power. Jubilee wants power to monopolise it, use it to oppress our people and to steal from them. Nasa wants to diffuse power, share power, and use power to serve the people of Kenya.” Moses Wetang'ula also said similar words. FALSE

PRESIDENT KENYATTA'S EDUCATION

“And these brothers of ours, if you ask them, you will be told one went to some unknown university in America, you don’t know what he did, and he came back”  - Moses Wetang'ula on April 20, 2017.


Mr Wetang'ula is referring to President Kenyatta in these remarks. These remarks are not true, because it is well known by now that Uhuru Kenyatta studied Economics and Political Science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, USA, graduating in 1985.

Following queries to the college by Kenyans, Amherst College confirmed through its official Twitter account on March 30 that Uhuru Kenyatta had indeed studied there and graduated. FALSE

LOWERING RENT

“That is why yesterday, I heard that gentleman saying that he will reduce rent. How? The house is not yours, you didn’t build it. The person who built it did so with his own money. How will you go reducing rent?” – William Ruto on May 6, 2017.

The Deputy President was referring to remarks Raila Odinga made in an interview with Hussein Mohammed of Citizen TV on May 4, 2017:

“[For] people who particularly live in urban areas, [rents] are actually also pretty high…we brought it down in Kibera, we can bring it down again. There is what you call economic rent, which is very easy to do, just negotiating with landlords in terms of what can be charged and putting a ceiling in terms of what can be charged.”

On 31 October, 2001, then President Moi spoke at a rally in Kibera and asked the Provincial Commissioner and District Officer to ensure that landlords reduced rents in the informal settlement. Odinga, then the Minster for Energy and MP for Lang'ata, supported the President’s call for lower rents.

Conflict arose after landlords tried to collect their dues and at least 12 people died. It is not hard to see why calls for rent reduction don’t sit easy with landlords.

In most private rental housing, landlords fix rents based on what they think the market will bear. However, rent controls are not a new idea. Even for private housing, many governments restrict the rate at which rents can increase in a year. For example, in Ontario, Canada, rents cannot increase by more than 1.5 per cent every year.

When it comes to low income earners, governments have long worked to limit exploitation of tenants by landlords and ensure adequate housing. They do this by building public housing which is made available at subsidised rent, and through controlling rents that fall below a certain limit.

In Kenya, the Landlord and Tenant Bill 2007 which was expected to modernise the Rent Restriction Act is yet to be passed. It was supposed to revise the rent of buildings controlled under the act from Sh2,500 a month to Sh15,000 a month. With increasing urbanisation around the country, the clamour for its passing could well increase.

Mr Odinga did talk of lowering rents. However, the Deputy President’s remarks give an incorrect impression that rents cannot be controlled, particularly for low income residents. UNPROVEN