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Muheria urges State to ease the tax burden on Kenyans

 Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria has called on the government to ease off on the untenable demands on the incomes of people and reconsider the tax regime.

In an interview with The Standard to mark the end of 2023, which saw enhanced taxation and a high cost of living, Muheria expressed hope for the new year but noted it would be presumptuous to try and predict what will happen in 2024.

“Nevertheless we plead with the government, we encourage them also to prioritise the first level support to the very needy, in the cost of basic commodities, and assistance in health care,” he noted.

He said an area of concern is the imbalance in the education system whereby fewer and fewer people from poor families will be able to access secondary and higher education due to prohibitive fees and an unclear bursary system.

“We need to sort out our policies in an orderly and well-thought-out manner. There must be better coordination in government. Often, it seems serious policies are made on the spot without much planning or coordination,” he said.

On his outlook for 2024 for Kenyans who are facing hardship due to the high cost of living and new taxes, he applauded Kenyans for having stood out for their innovation and resilience.

“We have never been as badly battered economically as in the last year. Every new month seemed to deplete the meagre resources of our families. The cost of items,  fuel and travelling, the fees in schools, the increase in taxes without any relief from increased salaries,” he noted.

“We know that the world situation has caused a global increase in the cost of living, but we also believe that there are ways we can mitigate its increase with meaningful strategies. We hope and pray that our agricultural production in 2024, and our tourism income increase substantially to aid our economy,” he said.

On the national dialogue process, he said the church had called several times for an open and inclusive discussion and dialogue beyond the initial bi-partisan talks that followed the demonstrations and disgruntlement at the beginning of 2023.

“We still believe there is an opportunity for a truly open dialogue that addresses national issues together without it being a prerogative of just political parties and leaders. By bringing on board many experts and other opinion and alternate leaders including faith leaders, a broader consensus and vision can be created,” Muheria said.

He noted the country enjoys great expertise at all levels and bringing together to build a common future would in no way diminish the role of leadership the government and current leadership has, but moreover would enhance it.

Muheria also celebrated Kenyan heroes who made the country proud in 2023. “As usual our pride in this last year has been the successes of our heroes, the athletes and sportsmen. This is one area that makes us all feel so proudly Kenyan. We celebrated the wins and world records of Faith Kipyegon, Kelvin Kiptum, Mary Moraa and of course Eliud Kipchoge. They never disappoint,” he said.

He also highlighted the recognition of the tremendous legacy of Prof Wangari Mathai through the recognition of her daughter Wanjira Mathai who has taken up her mother’s baton with zest!

Muheria observed that what stands out is the resilience of the Kenyan people.

“Kenyans have continued to be optimistic given difficulties and adjusted with outstanding resilience. Some have been amazingly innovative in trying to get new income side hustles. We sincerely applaud this Kenyan spirit.”

However, he also called on Kenyans to reflect and find ways to avoid the tragedies faced in 2023.

 He termed the Shakahola tragedy ‘the biggest human scandal’ in recent times. “There is no way we can erase the Shakahola tragedy from our minds and memories. That over 400 Kenyans lost their lives in an irrational frenzy,  is truly sad and inexplicable,” Muheria said.

He further added “However, this is one of our great weaknesses as Kenyans. We are gullible, believing any person who makes any claim of extraordinary power.”

He said greed and desire for immediate results have led many Kenyans to a life of misery, slavery and deception following imposters.

“We call this faith, but unfortunately many false religious leaders use this irrational “belief” to manipulate and mislead Kenyans. We must wake up to discern what true faith in God means, and what religious fraud or conning is. As we wait to get answers, we must make sure we never get another Shakahola,” Muheria noted.

He linked this to the search for short-cut solutions to Kenyans’ problems. “We as Kenyans easily fall for false messianism. We constantly search for messiahs to permanently solve all our problems. Somehow, we have created a common narrative that seeks political, economic or religious saviours. We follow people blindly not for their well-thought-out plans and strategies but for the rhetoric of messianism. Kenyans must stop being credulous and learn to work for organic and strategic solutions at all levels,” he said.

He said it was time for citizens to resolve their issues and take up economic and developmental initiatives for themselves.

“This should include solidarity and social actions in favour of those in need around us. We must take up our roles and become innovative, without depending on or waiting for Government agencies or other external benefactors,” Muheria said.

Muheria said the church has played an important role in highlighting several social ills affecting the country and especially the economic struggles of ordinary Kenyans in front of a relentless demand from their incomes.

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