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Kenya is Constrained in Containing the Effects of COVID-19 and Putting the Economy Back on Track to Achieve the Big Four Agenda

The Big Four Agenda is a development plan conceptualized by the President Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure the ordinary Kenyan has a reliable source of livelihood, owns a home, has enough food, and can access universal healthcare. It has aimed at accelerating the achievement of the Vision 2030 aspirations.

Case of Affordable Housing

Housing ranks high after food as a fundamental human need. The development of standardized, adequate, and well-spaced houses with a continuous supply of clean water and electricity, is what we mean by affordable housing, located in decent and secure places and available to both lower, middle, and upper class in the society. The president aimed at providing at least 500,000 affordable homes by 2022. Access to affordable homes brings benefits such as financial security to homeowners, a sense of belonging to an individual, it builds confidence and it also offers health benefits since diseases thrive in crowded conditions of slums. Most people in Kenya live in cities and towns, thus the population rate in urban areas rapidly increases. Nairobi alone requires at least 120,000houses annually to meet the demand but the government has only built 35,000 houses. This has caused housing prices to increase, pushing low-income residents out of the formal housing projects and into the slums. President Uhuru envisioned that increased construction would be an important source of revenue, through processing permits approval and other activities. The of houses would also offer job opportunities to unemployed individuals which would help them bring food to the table. The housing project would also formalize the informal sector such as the Jua kali industries, which would supply inputs for the construction of affordable houses.

Effects of covid 19 on housing

Covid 19 has spelled doom for the ambitious big four agenda which was meant to secure president Uhuru’s legacy. Covid 19 has led to an economic downtown over the past period. The following are some of the effects on housing

  1. Redaction of labor force. Measures made by the government to mitigate the spread of covid 19 such as the imposition of a nationwide curfew, restriction of movements, and an enforced lockdown have led to the loss of jobs and unpaid leave to many Kenyans.
  2. Reduced construction activities by developers in a bid to reserve their cash at a time where market liquidity is likely to go down
  3. Deduction in the funding sector. All the money and resources have been directed to the health sector to buy supplies and vaccines to help fight the virus.
  4. A slowdown in collections for those who have purchased off-plan real estate on installment plans.
  5. People living in poverty find it difficult to meet their daily expenses and pay bills and rent due to loss of jobs or unpaid leave

The covid 19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis. it is threatening to have overwhelmed public health care systems and is having devastating impacts throughout the world on all spheres of life _ the economy, social security, education, and food production.

Kenya’s constraints to recover from the socio-economic shocks of covid 19

  • Poverty. Income inequality levels have not decreased significantly over the recent years. Unemployment still stands at a very high rate. Workers in the informal economy may not have the luxury of staying at home since they do not have sick leave and they often lack disposable cash and cannot stockpile food in times of a pandemic. Hunger, malnutrition, pneumonia, and other forms of diseases have compounded vulnerability to the covid 19 pandemic.
  • Disruption of the global supply chain. The spread of the virus instantly lowered the supply of imports from China as well as South Korea of electronics, clothes, and furniture. Local traders are affected since the price has increased which in turn lowers the rate of demand.
  • Agricultural migrant workers are particularly vulnerable because they face risks in their transport, living, and working conditions. They struggle to access support measures put in place by the government, guaranteeing the safety and health of all Agri workers, from primary producers to those involved in food processing, transport, and retail; including food vendors as well as better incomes and protection, will be critical to saving lives and protecting public health and people’s livelihoods.
  • Covid 19 has led to the decimation of jobs. individuals who are breadwinners lose jobs, fall ill, and die thus threatening the food security and nutrition of many and putting their livelihood at risk.
  • Border closure restrictions have prevented farmers from accessing markets, buying inputs, and selling products hence disrupting the normal food chain.

Policy intervention

  1. Encouraging banks to give concessionary loans at low rates to facilitate businesses, and as well provide moratoriums on loans that are due;
  2. Strengthening the local supply chain for traders to be able to access import substitute goods
  3. Reducing income tax rate for persons earning a gross monthly income of up to Ksh24000
  4. The central bank of Kenya has lowered its bank rate to allow commercial banks to lower their rates to the borrowers.
  5. State agencies have established and implemented frameworks for staff to work at home, this thus reduces the rate of spreading the virus.
  6. Restoring the livelihoods of employees affected by engaging in COVID-19 response through national cash-for-work programs in partnership with gig economy tech platforms.
  7. Preventing school dropouts by sensitization and support mechanisms.
  8. Investing more to build an even more resilient food system to contain a food security crisis.
  9. Ensuring that refugees and migrants have been included in the national surveillance, preparedness, and response activities.

By Patriciah Wanjiku, a student at Embu University

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