President William Ruto opened the 13th Parliament yesterday by calling for bipartisan support from both Houses in addressing the challenges the country is facing.
In his 33-minute address to the joint parliamentary sitting, Ruto made radical proposals that sought to undo policies of previous regimes.
President Ruto called for the restructuring of the tax system, amendment of the Standing Orders to allow for Cabinet Secretaries to appear before Parliament to answer questions, a relook at the health system, abandonment of consumption subsidies and strengthening of the oversight role of the august House.
To strengthen Parliament’s oversight role, he urged the legislators to consider a “mechanism in the Standing Orders to facilitate Cabinet Secretaries articulate government agenda, explain policy and answer questions on the floor of the House to enhance Executive accountability” to the people of Kenya.
“I will run an administration that is open, that is transparent, and my administration will rely on oversight from this House to make sure the public gets value for every cent invested in every policy, programme and project,” said Ruto.
The president also called for the restructuring of health system which encompasses the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social and Security Fund (NSSF).
He sought to undo the policies implemented by previous regimes to make Universal Healthcare successful.
“A key driver to this realisation is the National Health Insurance Fund, whose restructuring is not only necessary for efficiency but also enables it to become fit for purpose social insurance scheme that caters for all, including chronic diseases,” Ruto said.
To increase access to water from the current 60 per cent to 80 per cent, Ruto said Sh500 billion is required and this would be availed through a public-private partnership framework by entering into water purchase agreements.
On revenue, the president proposed a radical change to the tax model which he said was not responsive to the needs of the economy.
Ruto sought to have a tax model whose hierarchy taxed wealth, consumption, income and trade respectively. “Our tax regime currently falls far short of this. We are over-taxing trade and under-taxing wealth. We will be proposing tax measures that begin to move us in the right direction,” he said.
“We will also work with the Kenya Revenue Authority on a culture change to make it a people-friendly, customer-centric organisation. I am of the view that we should rename it the Kenya Revenue Service in line with the proposed transformation,” he added. The Head of State revealed plans to overhaul the social security infrastructure to make it inclusive.
He proposed a national savings drive to encourage those in the informal sector to set up their retirement savings plan.
“For every two shillings saved in the scheme, up to a maximum of Ksh6,000 a year, the government will contribute one shilling,” Ruto said.
To address the ongoing drought, the president said the government has embarked on the distribution of relief supplies to 3.5 million Kenyans in 23 arid and semi-arid counties.
He noted that the ultimate solution to the drought cycle in the country was to mitigate climate change and its adverse effects.