Only fools can believe higher taxes will turn around economy


A candle illuminates a placard during the 13th commemoration of Katiba Day at Mazingira Institute. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

I choose to doubt that the cost of living will come down anytime soon. Prices have gone up; they will not drop. The high taxes we are subjected to will not lead to any meaningful economic progress, at least for the poor who are the majority.

I am using this line of argumentation from Rene Descartes’ 'method of doubt'. The principle in the method of doubt is that one should only believe if and when there is no more reason to doubt a belief. This method should not be mistaken for being negative. If anything, it is a reminder that being positive must be justifiable. If the Kenya Kwanza government does not provide constructive and hard evidence for the claim that high taxes are necessary to turn around the economy, only fools, should believe it.

If we are to apply the method of doubt to deconstruct the government rhetoric on why we are in this economic quagmire and why we must pay taxes no matter the income level of households, especially the poor families, the government must give us reasons beyond which we cannot doubt its commitment to improve the economy. As things stand now, the claim that the hard economic times we are in will improve soon is problematic.

So, the repeated affirmation from the Kenya Kwanza government that 2024, 2025 or thereabout we shall return to eating manna at an affordable cost is unsettling. This very apocalyptic approach is meant to re-energise us to tighten our belts, accept to continue paying the high taxes and look forward somehow to a better tomorrow. What is the evidence to make us believe the government means well for us?

It is easier to doubt things will not improve. We have every evidence that the economic crisis will get worse. Look at the series of scandals in the past one year. Look at the questionable performance of the top government officials. Look at the audacity of Parliament to justify illegalities in observing the Political Party Act to allow legislators undermine parties that sponsored them. Such political behaviour can only breed seeds of corruption across systems of governance to plunder the economy.

Moreover, with the cost of living soaring, top economic government advisors are mocking us for believing political rhetoric during electioneering last year that things will be better should Kenya Kwanza government come to power; and other top government officials unapologetically rubbing it in that things will not change any time soon and therefore we have to, supposedly, admit we are the makers of our own fate and therefore lick our wounds and soldier on in the belief that miracles happen so the economy will improve. After all, we are a praying nation – aren’t we?

Let us disabuse ourselves from one basic no-brainer justifications presented for the ever-rising cost of living. Arguably, we are in this economic mess because of the Handshake between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. One year on, the Kenya Kwanza honchos and their apologetics should be smarter.

Fallacies of this kind do not wash. The same people forcing our heads to look back at how bad the Handshake was, joined other Kenyans at the time to appreciate that without the gesture (Handshake) the country would have plunged into chaos. That is long time ago. And, it was never followed by a nusu-mkate government. The rest is history. Popping up the Handshake history as the reason we are facing hard economic times is diversionary. The question is: What exactly are you hiding with this fallacious argument?

We risk falling into false economic certainty. Futuristic promises that the economy will improve must be founded on hard-evidence that we have not been provided with. Give us grounded reasons to support your economic recovery strategy.

Blaming us for asking hard questions on the performance of the economy is dereliction of duty. We are citizens entitled to get answers from the government on critical matters such as why children cannot access free education as promised, university students cannot get loans as promised or unpacking convincingly the reasons for increasing taxes erratically.

Dr Mokua is the executive director of Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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