Just hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a number
of steps the government had taken to cushion Kenyans against the effects of
Coronavirus on the economy, David Ndii has reacted saying some of the measures
might not be practical.
This evening I took a walk to my neighbourhood mall Rosslyn
Riviera. Quite a few businesses have signs that they closed until further
notice, the hair salon, health spa, music school/dance studio, golf
simulator—understandably so since these are close contact services.
These micro and small enterprises (MSMEs) are the engine of
the economy. There is a myth that MSMEs are all informal, unregistered
enterprises that do not pay tax.
Not true. According to the KNBS MSME Survey, there were in
2016, 1.6m licensed MSMEs.
These MSMEs employed 6.3m people (3X the formal private
sector), paying Sh34b tax a month, Sh270b a year which in 2016 was 23% of tax
These MSMEs were paying workers/owners Sh10b a month. The
ones that have closed in my local mall belong here.
This is the economy for which my open letter to President
Uhuru Kenya proposed a lifeline fund, so that at very least the owners and
workers can feed their families.
Having listened to President Uhuru’s pronouncements, I am at
loss as to what policy analysis informed them
For the duration of the crisis, their income/turnover tax
returns will be NIL, VAT returns NIL. I doubt they have cash reserves for
salaries—PAYE returns NIL.
These and many businesses are not going to pay taxes, the
unpaid workers can’t spend, tax revenue is sure to fall.
Yet government proposes tax breaks without cost cutting. I
am at a loss as to how this is a rational responsible policy for a govt that
was in a fiscal crisis before the COVID-19 shock, or how tax breaks translate
to food on tables of ordinary people who’ve lost incomes and jobs.
We can only hope that in coming days, Uhuru Kenyatta and his
govt will hear the cry of the people.
As I said in my letter, this is our last big ask Mr.
President. Kenya is not big business. Listen to the people for once. They are
who you’re there to serve.