Kenya: Most Kenyans Think Country Headed in Wrong Direction, New Poll Shows

Three in five Kenyans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. They cite the high cost of living, unemployment and how the government has handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to a new survey by polling firm Infotrak, which shows that 65 per cent of Kenyans don't approve of the direction the country is taking and think the government is not doing enough to cushion them from the effects of the pandemic.

Interestingly, three in five Kenyans (62 per cent) see Covid-19 as a personal finance issue rather than a personal health issue. They highlight how big the dent the virus has had on people's incomes and businesses even as it ravages the health sector.

Kenyans said the move by the government to lift the Covid-19 tax relief measures in December last year hurt them further.

Sixty-one per cent, or three in five, said the lifting of the measures that had been put in placed to cushion Kenyans from the effects of the pandemic had made the cost of living extremely high.

Kenyans in North Eastern, Central and Western see the lifting of the Covid-19 tax reliefs as the biggest contribution to the high cost of living. Nairobi, Rift Valley, Coast, Eastern, and Nyanza (65, 63, 58, 43 and 39 per cent) are on the bottom half of the regions that rank as "extremely high" the effects of lifting the tax relief measures. Only nine per cent of Kenyans see the pandemic as a personal health issue.

Of those interviewed, 51 per cent said the poor state of the economy, where many people have lost jobs, and companies and businesses closed, among other issues, even as government continues to borrow heavily to finance its needs, were the reasons they believed the country was heading in the wrong direction.

Effects of pandemic

Another 17 per cent cited high unemployment and the manner in which the government has managed the Covid-19 pandemic as some of the reasons they believed the country was heading in the wrong direction, underscoring the devastating effects that the pandemic has had on the lives of Kenyans.

Three in 10 Kenyans, the survey showed, closed businesses because of the pandemic, 28 per cent no longer had an income, 17 per cent had their salaries cut, six per cent were unable to buy food, while another two per cent were unable to pay rent, support relatives or send money to their dependants.

The effects of all these were felt mostly by those in rural areas, where 68 per cent of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with the direction the country was heading, compared to 60 percent of their counterparts in urban areas.

As a solution, half of Kenyans want the government to urgently address the state of the economy, specifically the cost of living, unemployment and loss of jobs even as it tackles the pandemic.

"The feeling by a majority of Kenyans is that the economy is not being handled well, coupled by the accelerating number of the unemployed, issues like bad politics and even the management of the Covid-19 pandemic," Ms Angela Ambitho, the Infotrak managing director said.

"The high cost of living and unemployment are the issues Kenyans want urgently addressed by the government," she added.

Conducted between March 13 and March 16, the survey sampled 1,000 Kenyans in 30 counties from all of country's eight regions.

Unsurprisingly, the number of those who have lost faith in the government due to its mismanagement of the economy has been on the rise since last year, demonstrating what has become the country's growing disquiet among Kenyans over the state of affairs since the pandemic was reported.

Good governance

In June 2019, most Kenyans were in support of the government, with 52 per cent of the view that those in leadership were doing a good job in running the economy.

That figure, however, declined in the following months, with over 56 per cent of those interviewed in December of the view that the country was heading in the wrong direction, a figure that would rise again in March 2021 to 65 per cent.

"This rise has mostly been attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and performance of the economy, which most Kenyans believe is not being handled well by the government..., " said Ms Ambitho.

Nyanza had the highest number of respondents dissatisfied with the government at 78 percent followed by Eastern region at 72 per cent, Western at 71 percent, Coast at 63 per cent, Nairobi at 59 per cent, Central at 56 per cent and North Eastern at 50 per cent.

On Covid-19, 77 per cent of Kenyans said the pandemic has affected their livelihoods, with 32 per cent saying their businesses had been affected.

Another 28 per cent said they no longer had an income, 17 per cent had their salaries reduced, while another six per cent said they are unable to cater for basic necessities such as food.

Conversely though, 28 per cent of Kenyans believe the country is heading in the right direction, citing peace in the country, while 10 per cent were of the view that the economy was doing well.

Other reasons were good governance, good social services, the pandemic being handled well and good infrastructure.

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