Finance Bill 2022: MPs shouldn't make Kenyans' lives more miserable

A past joint parliamentary session in the Chambers, Parliament, Nairobi  [David Njaaga, Standard]

Members of Parliament (MPs) are in the coming days expected to debate on the Finance Bill 2022. As they do so, they must realise that the lives of Kenyans, the people who voted them into office, are in their hands.

When they settle down to look into the different tax measures that the National Treasury has proposed to implement over the 2022/23 Financial Year, they should reject proposals that will take away the little that Wanjiku is left with.

Kenyans have been hard hit, not just by the Covid-19 pandemic but also by last year's drought that led to a drop in agricultural production and the resultant high cost of living.

An increased number of Kenyans have over the last year had to rely on relief donations.

Kenyans are reeling from the high cost of fuel, which has added to the cost of essentials including food and daily commutes.

And while MPs have to look into the need by the Treasury to increase tax revenues to enable the government to fulfill its mandate to the people, they must also not be blind to the plight of the same mwananchi.

Parliament must find the delicate balance, in the absence of which more Kenyans would be going to bed hungry due to a further increase in the cost of essential goods and lack of jobs. 

In the Finance Bill 2022, Treasury has proposed the imposition of 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on wheat and maize flour.

Imposition of the 16 VAT per cent on maize flour would significantly increase food prices, including staples such as ugali.

Treasury also wants to raise excise duty on motor cycles, something that might hurt many young men who are looking at eking out a living in the transport industry as boda boda riders.

It also wants to increase excise duty on beer by 10 per cent, spirits by 20 per cent and advertising fees on alcoholic products at 15 per cent of the value of the advert.

The Bill also proposes that organisations and individuals who lose cases at the Tax Appeals Tribunal and want to move to the High Court, should deposit 50 per cent of the disputed tax amount. This, legal and tax experts have pointed out, could be unconstitutional and an attempt to deny Kenyans access to justice.

MPs might at the moment have their attention divided as majority of them are busy campaigning as the country inches closer to the August 9 general election, but the Finance Bill 2022 deserves all their attention.

Kenyans watching their every move, and if they decide to make their lives difficult by making ugali and chapati difficult to access, voters will have no option but to make the legislators' lives difficult too by exercising their democratic right to choose (other) leaders who might put their interests first. The government needs money, but it should not put money ahead of people's lives