IMF tax proposal on flour will hurt Kenyans more

Man takes home a bundle of maize flour which was donated by Hope Foundation Patron Pastor Allan Owano during a relief food distribution exercise in Kisauni on  April 30, 2020. Gideon Maundu, Standard].

Since the campaigns for the August elections went on top gear, William Ruto and Raila Odinga have rarely spoken the same language. They have been upbraiding one another, each trying to depict the other as the folk devil—unfit to be the fifth president of Kenya.

But on the proposed 16 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on wheat flour, maize flour and cassava flour, they have spoken in one voice and their message is music to the ears of suffering Kenyans. They have both vowed to reject the introduction of the tax.

That is a bold move considering their relationship with the government. Dr Ruto is the deputy president while ODM leader is close to the centre of power due to his close association with the president.

But although their criticism of Finance Bill, 2022, is, obviously, about winning hearts and votes, the proposal to introduce the VAT deserves strong condemnation from all right-thinking Kenyans.

This is because many Kenyans are living from hand to mouth due to the rise in the cost of living in the last few months. Prices of virtually all basic goods, including maize flour, wheat flour, milk and cooking fat have gone up by a huge margin. The cost of petroleum products hit a record high last week after three weeks of a biting shortage of the commodities. The lives of Kenyans have been turned upside down. 

It is therefore distasteful for the International Monetary Fund to propose the introduction of VAT on wheat flour, maize flour and cassava flour.

There is no doubt the government needs to raise money to defray its huge debts besides meeting its daily obligations. However, that should not make the lives of Kenyans more miserable by making it difficult for them to buy food.

The government should go back to the drawing board and seek other ways of raising money without hurting our stomachs further.

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