Relieve Kenyans of heavy petroleum taxes burden

EDITORIAL |

The Swahili have a saying that even the donkey — the beast of burden — gets tired.

Kenyans have had enough of increases in the price of petrol which invariably makes their lives more unbearable.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority on Tuesday increased the price of Super petrol to an all-time high of Sh134.72 per litre in Nairobi, a six per cent increase from Sh127.14 per litre that had been in place.

Diesel will retail at Sh115.6 per litre over the next month, also a sharp increase from Sh107.66. Kerosene, largely the poor man’s fuel for lighting and cooking, has also gone up substantially, by Sh12.97 to Sh110.82 per litre.

Super petrol will retail at Sh145.42 per litre in far-flung areas such as El Wak.

The spike in price of fuel is expected to increase the cost of living by driving up the cost of electricity, water, transport, agricultural produce and manufactured goods.

It is time Kenyans, through their elected representatives, started having a candid conversation on how this trend can be reversed.

There is very little that Kenyans can do about the crude oil prices in the global market. However, it is noteworthy that the biggest fraction of the cost of petroleum products -- nearly half -- is in the form of taxes.

Petroleum products attract all kinds of taxes — Excise Duty, Value Added Tax, Import Declaration Levy, Petroleum Development and Railway Development Levy.

It is true, as Benjamin Franklin said, that nothing is certain except for death and taxes. But even he must be rolling in his grave due to all these taxes being piled on just one consumer item.

Even worse is that the increase in taxes has always outpaced that of economic growth.

This is tantamount to over-milking one cow without feeding. Eventually, the cow will run out of milk at some point.

The government needs to cast its tax net wider so as not to overburden a few taxpayers. Unfortunately, this is turning into a broken record by a government that has for long promised to ensure everyone pays their fair of taxes.

But the problem is not just on how the government has been raising taxes. There are also concerns that the government has not been efficient in spending taxpayers' money.

No one would have any issues if their income would have risen faster than the money they spend to fuel their cars.

Unfortunately, a good chunk of the money that the government has extracted from taxpayers has not been put into good use.

That said, it is important that the government finds ways of removing the heavy burden brought about by high taxes on petroleum products, especially now when Kenyans lives have been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

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