Kenyans prepare for painful tax burden ahead of budget reading

Budget briefcase carried by CS Treasury Njuguna Ndungu at Parliament on June 15, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A section of Kenyans are pessimistic about the prospects of the country’s budget estimates addressing key concerns affecting the economy.

They claimed they were hoping the government would prioritize projects in agriculture, business, stalled projects, and managing foreign debt as a priority to help lift the economy and ease the burden on taxpayers.

For some, debt management should be the priority in the budget with the hope that the country will not incorporate new loans as part of the initiative to fund the budget.

Interviews with a number of residents across counties established that a majority were hoping Kenya Kwanza’s latest budget would be the economic breakthrough for the country.

In Rift Valley, traders claimed they are expecting a budget that does not pass the additional burden to an already overburdened taxpayer.

Mohamed Noor, a businessman, says that taxation has been a major problem in his business and has hampered its growth.

Noor says that he expects the government to reduce taxes to accommodate him and other traders.

In the alternative, Noor wants the government to put in measures that will ensure conducting business within Nakuru will be possible and free of frustrations, corruption, and an unconducive environment.

Kericho branch executive of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Mary Rotich, hopes the government will allocate sufficient funds for the hiring of teachers.

“Most schools are still understaffed, and the government has the responsibility of hiring teachers to address the teacher shortage in public schools across the country,” she stated.

In Western and Nyanza, however, anxiety has gripped traders ahead of the tabling of the country’s budget estimates for the year 2024/2025 today.

In Busia, traders interviewed at Busia Soko Posta said they fear that proposed levies by the Kenya Kwanza administration could render them insolvent.

Wilmina Nafula, a vegetable vendor at the market has urged the government to reduce levies imposed on small and medium businesses to keep them afloat.

“Taxes imposed on small businesses are not realistic and could end up killing them contrary to what small traders and boda boda operators were promised during campaigns in 2022,” said Nafula.

Erick Ouma, the chairman of boda boda operators in Busia said that the cost of fuel may throw some of them out of business.

He said the budget must take into account the cost of fuel, which has contributed to the high cost of living.

“We fear that some of our members could be unable to continue operating due to projected increased fuel prices,” said Ouma.

In the North Rift region, agricultural producers expect budget estimates that will lower production costs and boost agribusiness.

Thomas Boen, a large-scale farmer from Uasin Gishu County said he expects Treasury CS Professor Njuguna Ndung’u to set budget allocations for the purchase of current season maize harvests.

Rift Valley Law Society of Kenya Chair Aston Muchela says he expects the 2024 budget to be clear on how the government is planning to clear the high level of debt we owe foreign countries.

He says he wants the government to tell Kenyans if they intend to take more loans to run Kenya or the heavy taxing will take care of all the budget including the debt.

“The government cannot overtax Kenyans and at the same time continue borrowing to run the country. It should be very clear the step they are taking,” says Muchela.

Tom Nyagechanga, a Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff), Commodity representative in Trans Nzoia said the continued high cost of fuel and basic commodities continues to subject citizens to suffering, saying parliamentarians should have considered making amendments to reduce hefty taxes.

Joseph Sang, a farmer from Chepkanga in Uasin Gishu County said he expects the budget estimates that will enable expansion of the agricultural subsidy program.

“The government has funded fertilizer subsidy well. There is a need to expand the program to enable farmers to access subsidized seeds and agrochemicals to address the skyrocketing cost of food production,” said Sang.

In West Pokot, residents are eagerly waiting to hear decisions that will shape their economic and social landscape. They anticipate increased development, improved infrastructure, and enhanced social services, with the budget estimates expected to be delivered tomorrow.

“Our children deserve quality education and we hope the budget will prioritize investments in schools and educational resources since we are a marginalized county,” stated Mary Chepurai.

Infrastructure development, particularly road construction and maintenance, remains a pressing issue for residents of West Pokot.

In the Mount Kenya region, residents claimed they were hoping the government will prioritize the revival of the coffee industry.

[Report by Daniel Chege, Nikko Tanui, Jesse Sikali, Mary Imenza, Titus Too, Irisheel Shanzu, Clinton Ambujo and Lydia Nyawira]

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