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Eyes on your MP after President throws back the fuel fireball

By Roselyne Obala and Jacob Ng'etich | September 15th 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta

All eyes have shifted to the National Assembly where the fate of the 16 percent levy imposed on petroleum products now lies.

After days of heated debate away from the plenary, it will be interesting if the MPs will rubber stamp President Uhuru Kenyatta’s word on the proposed law they had unanimously passed.

Yesterday, President Kenyatta rejected the Bill and instead proposed a reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) to eight percent and budget cuts in various ministries, agencies and parastatals where they will have to do with scaled down local and foreign travels.

This means MPs will also have to tighten their belts and reduce benchmarks locally and abroad and numerous retreats mostly hosted in Mombasa, and frivolous expenditures.

The legislators had previously vowed to marshal two thirds requisite numbers to veto the president’s decision and also rally Kenyans through street protests to postpone the implantation of the punitive tax.

A day after National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi called for a special sitting next Tuesday and Thursday to discuss the Finance Bill rejected by the president, a number of MPs faulted the move while others supported the President’s decision.

The MPs are expected to deliberate on President Kenyatta’s reservations on the Bill and the Supplementary estimates, including the Supplementary Appropriations Bill, 2018.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said though they would like to know the contents of the memorandum that the President had sent to Parliament, the mood in the House is that a majority of the MPs will maintain their earlier stand that the VAT on petroleum be suspended.

“No legislator would want to be seen not to side with the people, we will draw a list of shame, those who will not attend and those who will side with the government will be paraded for Kenyans to see and know the real enemies of the common mwananchi,” said Osotsi.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said under the Constitution, the MPs will need a super majority of 246 members to overturn the President’s decision.

“If the MPs raise the numbers they will reject or amend the bill to cushion Kenyans,” said Kilonzo.

He, however, said the move will not be a walk in the park and members will have to demonstrate unusual nonpartisanship to achieve this, which will be a direct defiance of the executive.

“Kenyans should brace for difficult times ahead as we navigate spiraling external debts, funding the Big Four and the counties. Austerity measures are inevitable if they have to fund the humongous budgets,” he said.

Alego/Usoga MP Sam Atandi however lauded the president’s decision to reject the Bill.

“The President has done the right thing to refer the bill back to Parliament and propose a supplementary budget.  Before the 16 percent tax levy on petroleum products is applied, we need to first delete appropriated estimates touching on grand projects and unjustified recurrent estimates,” said Atandi.

“Also we need to reconsider other revenue raising measures, which the House rejected, such as Robin Hood tax on bank transfers. This is an important proposal aiming at taxing the rich.”

Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgei questioned why Kenyans are highly taxed on petroleum yet it has a port and Uganda, which is landlocked, pays less for the same commodity as well as Ethiopia.

“The conversation is bigger than 16 percent imposed on petroleum products. The government must explain the hidden taxes in fuel industry,” he said.

Kosgei said if those eight taxes from the point of importation to consumption are explained and removed then the 16 per cent on products can be applicable.

“There are hidden charges of over Sh58. The issue is not VAT but oppressing Kenyans at the expense of a few. If the status quo remains even posho mills in the villages will be quite expensive,” he warned.

The MP said what they want is a win-win situation where the interests of all Kenyans are catered for.

Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter said the issue of of fuel was a national crisis that required a bipartisan approach.

“I urge the leadership to convene an informal meeting for us to discuss this matter before it is brought to the plenary.” 

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