World’s leading banks, consultancies and think-tanks see the Kenyan economy expanding by 5.8 percent this year, unchanged from 2018’s estimated growth, sustained largely by increased private sector investments and consumption.
Heavy rains in the second quarter of 2018 and the March 9 truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga – popularly known as the hand shake – likely lifted growth from a five-year low, economists have said.
A consensus growth outlook from 14 global firms indicate the country’s economy will expand at the same pace as 2018, with subdued performance in private sector credit and increased debt repayments posing downside risks to the outlook.
Researchers at FocusEconomics, a Barcelona-based economic forecast and analysis firm that compiles global forecast data on sub-Saharan Africa, say the economy likely sustained a solid pace of growth in the final quarter of 2018.
This is despite implementation of the eight percent value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products from September 21 and increased charges for electricity, which raised the cost of some basic goods, hurting household incomes.
Diesel, used to power farm and industrial machines as well as in public transportation, for example cost an average of Sh108.97 per litre last November as a result of the VAT, 16.71 per cent more than a year earlier.
Households consuming 200 units of electricity, on the other hand, paid Sh4,434.48 in November, a 12.63 per cent increment compared with 12 months before.
“Private sector activity seems to have expanded robustly in October and November, despite losing some momentum from H1 (first half), while the arrival of the short rainy season likely boosted agricultural and hydro-powered electricity output,” they wrote in their latest report on sub-Saharan Africa.
“Growth momentum will likely be sustained in 2019, as healthy remittance inflows and a tighter labour market drive solid private consumption, while upbeat business confidence fuels a strong expansion in fixed investment.”
A higher growth means increased economic activities, which creates job opportunities for the rising population of unemployed graduate youth and raise revenue collection for the government.
Washington-headquartered Frontier Strategy is projecting the highest growth for Kenya in 2019 at 6.8 percent while New York-based Fitch Solutions sees the country clocking 5.2 percent – the slowest growth among firms surveyed.
US brokerage house Citigroup Global Markets and France’s giant lender PNB Paribas – the world’s eighth largest bank by assets – are both forecasting a 6.1 percent growth for Kenya.
London-headquartered Euromonitor International sees six percent growth, while Economist Intelligence Unit and Goldman Sachs each project a 5.8 percent expansion.
Others are JPMorgan, France-based credit insurer Euler Hermes and Oxford Economics, which are all projecting Kenya’s economy to expand by 5.7 percent and Standard Chartered of London (5.6 percent).
Economic research consultancy firm Capital Economics of UK and Swiss lender Julius Baer Group, on the other hand, have forecast a growth of 5.5 percent, while world’s largest lender HSBC sees Kenya’s economy growing 5.4 percent.
“Recent activity data suggests that Kenya’s economy remained strong in recent months. After jumping in September due to tax changes, inflation stabilised in October and November.
“We expect that the Central Bank of Kenya will keep its key rate on hold in 2019,” economists at Capital Economics said in a note on December 20.
The economy last year recovered from 2017’s twin shocks of biting drought in the first half of last year, which hit farming activities hardest, and elevated political uncertainties following a bruising presidential contest that put on hold many investment decisions.
Kenya posted a solid growth of 6.3 percent in the April-June period of 2018 largely buoyed by good rains earlier in the year.
But expansion is estimated to have slowed in the third quarter (July-September) due to uncertainty among investors as a result of new taxation measures, before recovering again in the final quarter.
The consensus growth outlook from the 14 firms is, however, lower than Treasury, International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group’s projections of 6.2, 6.1 and 6.2 percent, respectively.
“However, the prevalence of the interest rate cap will likely continue to limit the availability of credit and could hinder the government’s ability to secure additional funding from the IMF. This, coupled with fiscal tightening measures, pose headwinds to the outlook,” FocusEconomics analysts said in the report.
Another risk to economic growth is increased expenditure on debt repayments which eats into development budget.
Treasury data shows nearly Sh254.17 billion was spend on servicing debt in five months through November, nearly three times the Sh88.35 billion channeled into development projects overseen by State ministries, departments and agencies in the period.
“One concern we have over Kenya’s debt is the impact of a one-off shock (i.e. a drought or currency devaluation) which could cause either growth to slow sharply (to around one-two per cent) or the servicing costs on debt denominated in foreign currency to increase.
“Kenya costs are particularly vulnerable to the effects of an external shock due to their high current account deficit,” Capital Economics analysts said.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.