According to French philosopher and political activist Jean-Paul Sartre, politics is a science in which “you can demonstrate that you are right and that others are wrong”.
As I write this op-ed article, the Finance Bill, 2023 has sailed through second reading. Unfortunately, this bill might be the political bane of President William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza regime - I could be wrong.
Kenyans are not disputing that affordable housing will come with benefits such as employment to the hustlers and, more so, provide housing amid the rising population. Indeed, the sustainable development goals envisions a world where all have access to affordable housing by 2030.
Experts, engineers and architects agree that in the 21st century, providing affordable housing leads to benefits in health, education and economic opportunities. The Constitution also states, “Every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing.”
However, in all this mix, there is the political part - Kenyans are supposed to decide how they want to be ruled. One thing that made Kenyans not to listen to Uhuru Kenyatta during the August 2022 General Election was his regime's adamance and its insensitivity to their perceptions. Whether right or wrong, citizens must be made to feel they are the bosses - that is what they expected from President Ruto.
Now that the bill has sailed through, there are political monsters that the Kenya Kwanza regime must contend with. First, the president must work extra hard to prove the doubting Thomases wrong. This can only be possible if, before his first term, he will show tangible results.
Second, the Kenya Kwanza government must change the hustlers' perception that this bill has been forced down their throats - the same experience that they had with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
It does not make sense that whenever a government wants to carry out a project, they only think of burdening the citizens through increasing taxes. My question is, what has the government done with the taxes that the people are already paying?
The people feel that the president lied to them and doesn't care about their current economic struggles. Ask any Kenyan in the street, and they will tell you that no one is standing with them - they are disillusioned once again. Of course, in any democracy, it is impossible to please everybody.
In the words of Thomas Sowell, "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it fully. The first lesson of politics is disregarding the first lesson of economics." In this line of thought, there is no way the government will ever meet the expectations of the over 50 million Kenyans. However, any choice the government makes has political implications.
My last point is this, the reasons Kenyans were against the BBI still abound - Kenyans are struggling and cannot afford to add heavy yokes on their necks. The status of Kenyans has not changed—they are still against the burden coming with the Finance Bill, 2023. How Kenya Kwanza will handle the economic situation of hustlers from now on will shape their political peace.
As such, it doesn’t matter if the bill was amended to suit civil society's and other stakeholders requests. What the BBI was to former President Kenyatta is what the Finance Bill 2023 is to President Ruto.
In conclusion, to the citizens, President Ruto forced a punitive bill at a time when Kenyans were struggling economically. Since the communication and timing of the bill were terrible, it will be challenging to correct the existing perception. The Kenya Kwanza government earned their first 'wrong' from the hustlers, affecting their cumulative political score at the end of their first term.
Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, School of Music and Media at Kabarak University
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