President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. [File, Standard] With the nation eagerly anticipating the upcoming showdown in the National Assembly, both President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga have rallied their respective parliamentary troops, urging them to participate in tomorrow's crucial vote on the controversial Finance Bill 2023. The vote will determine whether the bill gets approved or dropped during the final voting process. The 349 lawmakers are expected to cast their votes on the bill during its third reading before the committee of the whole House, pitting Kenya Kwanza against Azimio. Ruto has called upon MPs from both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio to support the Finance Bill 2023 report, which would provide him with sufficient funds through taxation to finance his development agenda. On the other hand, Raila, through ODM Secretary General and Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, has urged MPs to oppose the bill and vote against it. The President has expressed his determination to broaden the tax base through the bill's ratification, aiming to revive the struggling economy without resorting to additional borrowing. "If we aspire for Kenya to emulate the vibrant economies of the Asian tigers, we must be willing to make difficult but necessary decisions. Taxation is the only way to foster Kenya's development," said Ruto. Shoot it down Azimio leader Raila has announced that all members of parliament affiliated with the party are expected to be present in the house on Tuesday to vote against the Finance Bill 2023. Abstaining or voting against the bill will be regarded as an act of rebellion against the party. Azimio has voiced opposition to Ruto's push for the passage of the Finance Bill, which proposes various measures, including the introduction of a mandatory 1.5 per cent housing tax deduction from salaried individuals. Raila openly opposes the proposed increase in the Finance Bill, which also seeks to raise the Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products from 8 per cent to 16 per cent. ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna speaks during a church service at Saint Paul's ACK Church Waruku in Kangemi, Nairobi, on June 18, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard] During a Thanksgiving cum fundraiser at the Anglican Church of Kenya Maseno North Diocese headquarters in Kakamega town, Raila said he is following in the footsteps of the late President Mwai Kibaki, who successfully grew the economy through taxation. Kibaki expanded the tax bracket from Sh200 billion to at least Sh900 billion before retiring. "I envision the country growing into a regional economic powerhouse with successful counties, but I will not achieve that by relying on borrowing. The previous administration accumulated a staggering debt of Sh9 trillion, almost leading Kenya to the brink of bankruptcy," the president said. He further added: "I will guide the country towards economic recovery by expanding the tax base. It is the collective responsibility of all Kenyans to fulfill their tax obligations in order to realize significant development." Second reading Last week, the Finance Bill 2023 report was passed by the National Assembly during its second reading, with 176 out of 257 MPs voting in favour of the bill, while 81 opposed it. No legislator abstained from the vote, although it was discovered that 92 lawmakers were absent during the vote. Addressing the congregants, Ruto asked, "Do you want MPs to approve or completely reject the Finance Bill on Tuesday?" This question prompted murmurs of dissatisfaction among the audience. Ruto continued, "As an MP if you vote against the bill and allow continued imports of products that we can produce locally, you are an obstacle to progress." He further stated, "Kenyans are the same people who applaud when MPs declare their intention to reject the Finance Bill, but then they expect me to create job opportunities for their children. Where do you expect me to get the funds from?" The head of state said Kenyans must fulfill the three per cent housing levy requirement to create employment opportunities for numerous unemployed youths. "If we consider the deduction of three per cent for housing as a negative idea, it reflects a lack of empathy towards the people we lead. It is the very people who employ both you and me that desire for you (MPs) to embrace the three per cent deduction and retain 97 per cent of your pay. Politics should not be entangled in this noble concept," Ruto said. Disciplinary action On Sunday, Sifuna said disciplinary actions await MPs who failed to participate in the vote against the bill, as well as those who supported it last week. According to the party constitution, they can face reprimand, expulsion, or fines, with notification letters already issued. Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [File, Standard] Sifuna highlighted the suffering of the Kenyan people while the country's leadership luxuriates in opulence, with increased budgetary allocations to the offices of the President and other high-ranking government officials, despite claims of a cash-strapped nation. He expressed the widespread belief among Kenyans that the actions of the government are unjust. He highlighted the increased foreign travel for the President, the acquisition of new vehicle fleets by senior government officials, and the purchase of expensive houses by senior officials, all while the government claims to be financially constrained. During a fundraising event at St Paul's ACK Church Waruku in Westlands on Sunday, Sifuna said within nine months of assuming office, Ruto has implemented measures that have made life difficult for ordinary citizens, with the intention of further impoverishing them. Sifuna emphasized that his party's stance aligns with the sentiments of ordinary Kenyans. He urged the government to stop deceiving the public by claiming these measures are in the best interest of the country, as the people are already experiencing hardships and should not be subjected to further suffering.