Nairobi – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Sunday a 12% hike in the minimum wage as the country confronts a surge in the cost of living.
Inflation in the east African economic powerhouse jumped to a seven-month high in April, mainly as a result of skyrocketing fuel and food prices, according to official figures.
“As a caring government, we find there is a compelling case to review the minimum wages so as to cushion our workers against further erosions,” Kenyatta said at a Labour Day rally.
He said the 12 percent increase would come into effect from May 1. It takes the minimum monthly wage from 13 500 Kenyan shillings (about $116.5, 110.5 euros) to 15,120 shillings ($130.5, 124 euros).
However the hike falls far short of the 24 percent that had been sought by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions-Kenya (COTU).
Kenyatta said the high cost of living was due to factors “beyond my control like the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict”.
He castigated rival political leaders – including Deputy President William Ruto – for seeking to blame the government for the economic woes, as the country prepares for crucial elections in August.
Kenyatta cannot run again after serving two terms but has endorsed his former arch-rival Raila Odinga for the top job.
The August 9 presidential election is expected to be a two-horse race between Odinga and Ruto, who was initially anointed by Kenyatta as his successor, but found himself frozen out after a shock 2018 pact between Kenyatta and Odinga.
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Kenyans are struggling to cope with rising costs of basic goods such as food and fuel, a crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine war, while several parts of the country are also suffering from a severe drought.
Inflation reached a seven-month high of 6.47% last month from 5.56% in March and 5.76% in April last year, the statistics bureau announced last week.
Last month the country was also hit by a fuel shortage that triggered long queues at petrol stations and strict rationing.