Housing levy will address indignity of slum life: Ruto

President William Ruto chats with First Lady Rachel Ruto after the 60th Madaraka Day celebration at Moi Stadium in Embu. [Samson Wire, Standard]

President William Ruto used the Madaraka Day celebrations to drum up support for the controversial housing levy proposal that has been roundly criticised.

Responding to criticisms from opposition leaders, the President equated the push to have salaried Kenyans being taxed 'for hustlers to get affordable housing', with the past fight for freedom.

"If our freedom fighters had asked if it was their business to fight for the country's liberation, the country could not have attained self-rule that resulted to independence," the President said at Moi Stadium in Embu on Thursday.

While hailing the public discourse on the Finance Bill, the President assured Kenyans that all their concerns about their investment would be responded to.

He said the debate was a wake up call to making institutions accountable in the manner they run national affairs observing that the ongoing debate 'is the vision of Madaraka Day expressed in the first Article of the Constitution'.

He said the housing levy would be a major boost to the Affordable Housing Scheme, which would enable those in the bottom of pyramid to afford decent homes.

"The programme therefore entails an entitlement aspect which gives priority to communities resident where the projects are situated. This way, the housing programme will raise the bar in terms of quality at the bottom," he said.

By rallying Kenyans to support the proposal, President Ruto said Kenya did not fight for independence to relegate innocent compatriots to a life suffering, exclusion and indignity in slums.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua assured the President that Kenyans though quiet, fully supported the measures to revive the economy and asked him to ignore his political detractors.

He also urged leaders to be steadfast in supporting the government's legislative measures in both Houses, seemingly rallying support for the proposed Finance Bill, 2023.

"We want to urge our leaders to continue supporting the legislative measures the government has proposed in the National Assembly to allow Kenya get away from public debt and fund our own development," the DP said.

While revisiting the last year's elections at the backdrop of failed bipartisan talks with the opposition, President Ruto said after many years since independence, this was the only time the basis of politics was changed from tribal to issue based campaigns.

"Until fairly recently, our country's politics was a divisive, violent, do or die affair but last year the trajectory of Kenyan politics shifted," he said.

"Kenyans also set a new high election management by deploying a secure freely accessible public portal with accurately and faithfully relayed vote tallies enabling Kenyans to compare and verify results," he said.

The President chided his competitors, suggesting that his political outfit in last year's elections was focused on economic recovery compared to his rivals who he claimed were interested in pushing for their interests.

"For decades, Kenyans understood that this perverse political culture defiled our democracy, but Kenyans yearned for freedom from the tyranny of political personality cults, toxic tribal discourse and violence," he said.

Ruto added: "They desired a more unifying, cosmopolitan framework of engagement which promoted the expression of their shared aspirations, encouraged inclusive negotiation and a collective means of pursuing
them."

The President said his administration is keen on addressing the high cost of living saying 'the cost of living is keeping all leaders including myself awake.'

He highlighted his administration's agenda towards formalising the 'extreme informality of most enterprises' saying most financial and credit facilities were not supportive of micro small and medium enterprises.

"A huge number of Kenyans about 10 million had either been blacklisted by the Credit Reference Bureau over inability to repay loans advanced by financial technology platforms or were struggling to pay," he said.

Comoros President Azali Assoumani was the only sitting president at the function with former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and African Union chairperson gracing the event.

"African countries have a common duty to promote our relations. We can come together and overcome obstacles for a better future and for the survival of Africa," the chairperson said.

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