Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Urban Inflation Index: March 2013

Gift from Uganda during the Kenya Supreme Court hearings
March 2013 saw the highly anticipated Kenya general election. There was a lot of uncertainty in the country, and beyond on what  impact it would have on the regional economies.

There were some familiar and ominous signs. The heavy investment the government had made in electronic vote systems failed, and it was a close race with a disputed result. However, unlike in 2008, the dispute was settled in the Kenya Supreme Court, and not in the streets. 

Ahead of all this, some Nairobians engaged in some extra shopping or stocking up which some called it panic shopping - but this was actually as prudent as shopping ahead of an approaching hurricane or storm, which may veer off at the last minute.

On to the index that compares prices to 3 months ago and a year ago.

Gotten Cheaper

About the Same

Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 105, which is down from 107 in December, but up from 97 a year ago

Other food item: A 2 kg. pack of Mumias sugar pack is Kshs 250, same as three months ago. It was 245 a year ago.

Communications: Telephone call and data rates are largely unchanged, and there have been few new mobile promotions,  with some items offered free like access to Facebook (Yu), Wikipedia (Orange), money transfer (airtel).

Fuel: Petrol prices in March were Kshs 117.6 per litre (~$6.12 per gallon) slightly higher compared to Kshs. 111.6 per litre a year ago and 112.6  last December.

Utilities/Electricity:  A pre-paid token purchase of Kshs. 500 purchase from the Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) gets about  33 units, compared to 31 a year ago. However the units are only a fraction of the bill with 4/5 of that Kshs. 500 payment going to pay for power generation debts, forex & fuel charges and even inflation. It's odd that even as heavy rains cause floods around the country, and presumably fill hydro dams,  KPLC still procures private thermal power and bills consumers for the costs.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 85.63 compared to Kshs. 86 three months ago and Kshs. 83 a year ago. The shilling did not dip much ahead of the election as many had expected.

More Expensive
Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 ($2.35) (at a local pub) up  from Kshs 180 where it has been for quite a while. The price increase was driven by local brew giant  East African Breweries that's got some debt issues.

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