Kenya is going through a very difficult time. The economy is in the doldrums and many people are struggling to put food on the table.
The government is unable to pay workers on time, and some county employees have gone for months without pay.
Kenya Kwanza blames the former government’s unbridled borrowing and the global economic slowdown brought about the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia’s war in Ukraine for our current predicament.
Its remedy, or band-aid, for the worsening economic situation is contained in the controversial Financial Bill 2023 which has a raft of tax proposals it hopes will help meet its ambitious Sh3.6 trillion budget.
Among the proposals are a 35 per cent tax rate for monthly income above Sh500,000, employees to contribute 3 per cent of their salaries to an affordable housing project with employers contributing a similar amount for every employee, increasing turnover tax from 1 per cent to 3 per cent and raising VAT on petroleum products from 8 per cent to 16 per cent.
While the government argues that these measure are necessary and will help keep the country stay afloat amid the worsening turbulence, those opposed to the bill see it as a bitter pill that would make a bad situation worse.
They argue that life would become unbearable if the government raises the VAT on petroleum products, whose prices have risen by a huge margin in the recent past. Compelling workers, whose payslips have been rendered useless by the high cost of living, they argue, would make their lives even more miserable.
But even amidst such concerns, President William has warned MPs against shooting down the bill and asked Kenya Kwanza legislators to pass it. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, on the other hand, has urged Azimio MPs to reject the bill, accusing the government of burdening further already tax-burdened Kenyans, majority who live below a dollar a day.
With MPs resuming their sittings today, we are likely to witness an ugly clash with the two main political camps flexing their muscles, with each seeking to show the other that they have bigger in the National Assembly.
But that should not be the case. The matter at hand is not about Kenya Kwanza and Azimio La Umoja. It is about 50 million Kenyans, most whose lives are now hanging by the thread. Reducing it to battle of the two coalitions would be simplistic and petty.
MPs should, for once, forget about their political affiliations, look at this bill soberly and decide whether it will make life better or worse for the now suffering Kenyans. They should, for once, ignore the standpoints of their party leaders and put the interests of those who elected to office first. That way, the decision they will make is likely be of benefit to the people, albeit not pleasing to their political godfathers.
MPs were never elected to be the rubber stamps of their party leaders. They were elected because people believed they are wise and can make independent decisions to uplift the lives of Kenyans. Let them stand up and be counted.