A public participation forum on Nyeri Finance bill 2019 ended in disarray after residents opposed plans to introduce new levies and demanded more time to air their views.
The forum turned chaotic after several tax proposals caused an uproar, with participants demanding that the county assembly gives them more time to scrutinise the document.
During the forum, which was held at Wambugu Farm Agricultural Training Centre on the outskirts of Nyeri town, shop owners, muguka and miraa dealers, bar owners, and matatu association representatives expressed their reservations with the bill.
Movie and electronics shop owners opposed a proposal to charge them Sh5,000 noise licence fee, saying this would cripple their businesses. The county has also proposed a Sh1,000 application fee.
“These are the businesses that many youth engage in. This fee is punitive because we already pay a business permit fee and other levies to several other national agencies to operate our shops,” said Kibe Wandindi, a movie shop owner.
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Muguka traders criticised a proposal to have muguka and miraa wholesalers pay Sh24,000 per year and retailers Sh10,000, saying this would introduce cartels in the business.
“Small-scale traders of muguka cannot afford that money, this is an attempt to push the youth out of business so that prominent businessmen can take over the trade,” said Jane Moraa.
Matatu operators were also up in arms against the proposal to charge them Sh4,000 per year and a penalty of Sh5,000 for defaulters.
The operators also opposed plans to review parking fees from Sh80 per day, saying this was already expensive.
The forum, which started at 2pm, ended in disarray after only two hours when participants demanded to be heard.
Residents demanded that the views of all stakeholders be heard and incorporated in the finance bill.
“We have legitimate concerns as a youth in this county because this bill is targeting youth-owned businesses. We want to be heard and will not rubber-stamp these proposals,” said Kariithi Wambu.
The forum’s convenor, finance committee chairperson, Anatanasio Wakabaire, downplayed the chaos and said the committee would consider all proposals. He advised aggrieved residents to submit written memorandums to the assembly.
“We are happy that the public is taking this document seriously and want to participate in the process. We will incorporate their views in the report that we will prepare,” he stated.
Other proposals in the bill are Sh2,000 per day levy on tourists visiting coffee or tea factories in the county to be paid to the tourism office.
Traders who have been transforming shipping containers into business premises will also be charged Sh300 per month.
Traders in rural markets will be charged Sh30 on market days.
Car owners are also expected to pay more for parking as the bill proposes to raise parking fees from Sh50 per day to Sh80 for vehicles within towns and urban areas.
If passed in its current form, nyama choma lovers and traders will also feel the heat as the county is proposing that traders who come together to set up a common nyama choma outlet be charged Sh6,000 in urban areas and Sh3,000 in rural set ups.