The decision by cereal millers to keep the old prices of maize and wheat flour at the base level is quite reassuring. Since the enactment of the Finance Bill last week, which introduced a raft of levies, the public has generally been apprehensive about an explosion of prices of consumer products. Maize flour and other basic commodities are some of the items whose prices were likely to shoot up.
But that fear has been defused as millers have thought differently.
Maize meal is the staple food for most households. If its price goes up, the impact is acute and widespread.
Families would technically be impoverished.
Equally, wheat flour is essential, given that it produces a wide array of foodstuffs that spice up the menu in most households.
Put together, increasing the prices of the two commodities is fraught with perils.
Ordinarily, manufacturers resort to an instant increase of prices whenever the cost of fuel goes up. Fuel is an integral component in the production chain, which is why an increase in its cost triggers panic. Yet, at times, the price increases may not be necessary because manufacturers can absorb them in one way or the other.
At least the flour millers have acted differently this time round. They have considered the options and established that they can take in some of the costs and hence spare the consumer the agony of higher prices.
Specifically, the value added tax law has been changed and allows the millers to reclaim taxes from the raw materials that they use in manufacturing. In that case, even though the cost of fuel goes up, they have relief through the refunds.
In the new scheme of things, the classification of the products has changed — such that, while previously they were tax-exempt, they are now zero-rated. To that extent, whatever is spent on raw materials is recoverable. Thus, the costs balance out somehow.
The lesson here is that it is possible for manufacturers and all other suppliers and transporters to make a profit even when prices of essential items such as fuel rise. It never follows that a rise in pump prices automatically leads to an upswing in consumer cost.
A case that easily comes to mind is transporters, who have the propensity to load all sorts of costs whenever there is a slight upsurge in fuel costs. Which is why President Uhuru Kenyatta had cautioned public sector vehicle operators against increasing fares.
We acknowledge that the new fuel tax will chirp into profits and even working capital for businesses.
But that doesn’t mean that there should be instantaneous and across-the-board price increases. Businesses ought to look inward and find areas where they can make trade-offs and cushion consumers against high prices.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The 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.
“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
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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