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Finance Bill 2024: MPs have final chance to make things right tomorrow

Kenya Kwanza PG held at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th President, is known for having said that democracy is “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Kenyans, in their long history of struggle for a democratic country, have always yearned for a form of governance that espouses the ideals postulated by Lincoln.The preamble of our Constitution states that power belongs to the people. This power is only donated to elected representatives.

The drafters of the Constitution made provisions for Kenyans to exercise their power indirectly through elected leaders or directly through public participation.

Ideally, public participation is supposed to be a process by which citizens interact with the State to influence decisions, policies, programmes and legislation.

Although public bodies in Kenya are supposed to comply with this policy, the Kenya Kwanza leaders have been doggy, only opting for public participation as a public relations gimmick.

The emerging widespread antipathy captured by  Gen Z protests largely stems from realisation that public participation has become a cosmetic ritual that does not count.

Most of the Gen Zs are educated yet they cannot find decent jobs. For a long time, their voices have been muzzled even as decisions that are detrimental to their welfare are made by fat cats.

Some of the contentious decisions that have been foisted on Kenyans under pretext of public participation include proposed contributions to the new public health cover, the housing levy and a host of other taxes.

Last year while pushing for the of Finance Bill 2023, President William Ruto warned MPs allied to the ruling party not to dare vote against the Bill. This time round, Starehe MP Amos Mwago has claimed MPs were blackmailed and threatened by the Treasury before the vote on the controversial Finance Bill 2024.

Public dissent and disaffection begin to take root in situations where a democracy that draws its power from the people disregards the voice of Wanjiku and opts to flex tyrannical tendencies.

The Finance Bill 2024 that was tabled by Chairperson of the Finance and National Planning Committee Kimani Kuria could not have snowballed into widespread protests if proper and genuine public participation was done.

Some of the contentious taxation measures that were dropped at the eleventh hour by Kenya Kwanza-allied leaders should not have found their way into the Finance Bill 2024 in the first place.

Although the Bill has since passed the second reading in the National Assembly with proposed amendments, there is still urgent need to re-look at the whole document to factor in public aspirations.

Notably, MPs will convene tomorrow to deliberate on the proposed amendments. We hope that they will exhibit statesmanship as they make contributions that would hopefully assuage the Gen Zs, favour mama mboga, resonate with boda boda riders and generally capture the spirit of the whole nation.

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