Slightly more than a third of Kenyan households are unable to pay their rent as the devastating effects of the pandemic take their toll on the ability of Kenyans to sustain their livelihoods which reeks of a tough time ahead for low-income earners despite two sets of economic stimulus measures fronted by the government in recent weeks.
According to a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) dubbed Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Households Report, 30.5 percent of households were unable to pay rent on the agreed date in April citing reduced income.
By the same breath, about 21.5 percent of households that normally pay rent when it falls due were unable to post their rent for the month of April 2020 on time.
Further, approximately 59.8 percent of those who usually pay rent on an agreed date were able to pay rent for the month of April on time.
Some 52.9 percent of Kenyans who failed to post their rent on time attributed that to reduced income/ earnings.
Another 22.4% of Kenyans attributed their inability to post rent on time to temporary loss of their jobs while 13.9% of Kenyans stated that they were unemployed.
In addition, 9.1% of households pointed to delayed income for their failure to pay rent on time while 1.7% of this group gave other reasons.
Due to the economic stress on households across the country, some 8.7% of households received rent waiver from their landlords in April.
Where is the Relief?
Economists have questioned the economic stimulus measures unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta and their practicability to cushion vulnerable Kenyans from the effects of the pandemic.
As it stands most Kenyans are struggling to put food on the table, to pay rent and to buy essential household commodities even as the government continues to urge Kenyans to stay at home.
“This is the economy for which my open letter to President Uhuru Kenya proposed a lifeline fund so that at very least the owners and workers can feed their families. Having listened to President Uhuru’s pronouncements, I am at loss as to what policy analysis informed them,” David Ndii, a respected economist tweeted on March 25 in reference to the second round of economic stimulus measures unveiled by President Uhuru on Saturday.
“Yet govt proposes tax breaks without cost cutting. I am at a loss as to how this is a rational responsible policy for a govt that was in a fiscal crisis before the COVID-19 shock, or how tax breaks translate to food on tables of ordinary people who’ve lost incomes and jobs,” added the economist.
President Kenyatta launched an eight-point Ksh53.7 billion economic stimulus plan on Saturday which included a Ksh3 billion package set aside as seed capital for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Credit Guarantee Scheme.
The measures were in addition of other interventions rolled out by the government on March 25 that entailed cuts on different sets of taxes including a reduction in Income Tax Rate (PayAs-You-Earn) from 30% to 25%.
Various corporates while channeling their contributions to the COVID-19 Fund have stipulated that a percentage of the funding will go to helping vulnerable Kenyans.
But little is being felt on the ground where most Kenyans who are not salaried yet to feel the impact of the government’s interventions on their livelihoods hence the alarming inability to pay rent.