Ruto on Housing fund levy: The buck stops with me

President William Ruto (second left), KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki (left), and Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) during the Presidential Economic Dialogue meeting in Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President William Ruto has committed to addressing issues surrounding the governance of the Housing Levy Fund to ensure its success.

In his mettlesome bid to bring on board the private sector, the Head of State Ruto used his meeting with a section of Governors and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) in Nairobi on Friday to reiterate the importance of the proposed government project, terming it a gateway to the country’s economic prosperity.

Ruto held a Presidential Economic Dialogue on Value Chains during which he defended the Housing fund and reiterated on the need to emulate the Singapore housing model.

Under the Finance Bill 2023, a proposal has been floated and if implemented will see Kenyans contribute three percent of their income which will be matched by their employers to enable them own homes under the Affordable Housing Program (AHP).

The proposal has however been met with criticism all-round, with Kenyans complaining that they are already overburdened by taxes.

 “Governance of projects has been an issue, but are we going to stop a project that supports our industrialization agenda which- encompasses job creation through local manufacturing- just because we are not sure of governance?” posed the President.

“I will take accountability for this project and I assure you that the backstops at my desk. I will not pass responsibility to the next person and I will sort out the governance issues,” added Ruto.

The Head of State was responding to concerns raised by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) which had taken issue over prior occurrences where government projects were abandoned midway and funds embezzled.

KAM chairperson Rajan Shah had moved to assure the Head of the state that the captains of industry were not opposed to the housing project but had also called on the state to engage in deeper conversations with the private sector to ensure it was properly and timeously actualized.

 “The concept of saving is very important. However, there are questions being asked in terms of its governance and the timing of it because in the past there has been a lot of mismanagement of projects,” said Shah.

To which Ruto responded by saying he would implement full-proof measures, such as having the Kenya Association of Manufacturers members sit in the board that will be managing the Housing levy fund.

“I have heard the proposal that we maybe wait a bit before implementing the Housing fund levy. This project has been with us since 2018 and I think it is now or never. All it takes is a little tightening of the belt here and there,” he added.

The president also came to the defense of the housing project, once again urging Kenyans to benchmark from Singapore.

Noting that Singapore was once a slum like kibera, he emphasized that we needed to make hard decisions as Kenyans so as to actualize our housing dream.

“Singapore was a slum like Kibera. All of you know and have seen pictures. It was like Kibera but they made some difficult decisions and that is why they are where they are and we are where we are, it is as simple as that.”

Adding: “Between us and Singapore, the gap is the ability to make decisions. So how can we be celebrating Singapore? They managed to overcome the housing challenge.”

According to Ruto, 85 percent of Singapore citizens are homeowners while five percent of Kenyans are homeowners.

At the same time, President Ruto has come out to explain his decision to introduce an export and investment promotion levy majorly targeting those in the manufacturing sector.

In the Finance Bill, there is a proposal to introduce the levy on imported clinker, for instance, at the rate of 10 percent of the customs value. If approved by Parliament, the levy will be an addition to the already existing 10 percent duty on clinker imports.

Ruto explained that the move was deliberate to ensure that imports were less attractive and that Kenyans favored those produced locally.

“The move is engineered to ensure that the country transitions from importing to manufacturing. By doing so, we also have the ability to stop hemorrhaging of the foreign exchange,” he remarked.

The private sector players on their part called on Ruto to implement favorable laws that would ensure Kenyan products were globally competitive.

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