The Finance Bill, 2023, has similar red flags to former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Building Bridges Initiative. From the government’s deceptive explanations, to the whipping of legislators to pass the bill, there is evidence that most Kenya Kwanza politicians prioritise their political fidelities. The political heavens are not blind to the fallacies surrounding the supposed justification of the bill.
First, one of the most openly contested parts of the bill is the housing levy. In guarding his proposed bill, President Ruto is on record saying that those with salaries are hesitant to contribute to the housing levy because they want the jobless to continue struggling. While the president’s conclusion sounds convincing to the poor that they lack because the rich have, there is a lack of connection between the premises and the conclusion.
Moreover, it is true that no one wants to get more deductions from their payslip—the deductions from the average Kenyans are already too many and leave measly take-home amounts that are at the edge of the one-third rule of Section 19(3) of the Employment Act of 2007. What will the government do to have the employers break the law if they were to make such deductions on employees?
The extension of this perspective is where the bill defenders argue that it is the rich who are opposed to the bill. This is not true! Listen to the people on the streets—give an ear to the wretched of the country. Aren’t most Kenyans begging the president for mercy?
Some politicians are saying that Kenyans are ignorant of the benefits that will come later once the bill is implemented. In the 21st century, Kenyans are not uninformed. They are still as wise as they were on August 8, 2022 when they voted for Dr Ruto and rejected Raila Odinga against all persuasions by the Jubilee regime. Neither are they now ignorant when they say No to a bill that they feel is overburdening their already empty pockets.
Another faulty explanation is that the Finance Bill targets the rich and middle class in order to benefit the poor—bad philosophy. Against this faulty reasoning, there is enough evidence to believe that the hustlers will carry the heaviest burden of the Finance Bill compared to others. Taking more cash from the ‘pay slipped’ Kenyans diminishes their buying power. It will have a trickle-down effect on those at the bottom of the pyramid. Therefore, do not be deceived; the housing levy will hurt all and sundry, mostly the unemployed.
Remember, those without salaries are not idle bodies; they are boda bodas, mama mbogas, mama nitilie, mama fua and errand men and women who earn their living from selling their wares and services to the salaried Kenyans. It could have been better if the government created stimulus programmes to put money in the pockets of Kenyans and then proceed to tax them—that is what President Kibaki did, and it did not hurt as much.
There is another visible deception that - Kenyans pay less tax compared to other countries. This reasoning is a classic example of the fallacy of false analogy. An average working-class person, paying a 30 per cent Pay as You Earn, has their four months’ full salary going to the government.
The remaining eight months’ salary is subjected to indirect taxes such as value-added taxes and a myriad of other levies. Such taxation in a developing country deters household development and only feeds into the GDP, which is not a perfect measure of a hustler’s well-being. Poverty will never leave such a society; ultimately, people’s productivity will be felt wide and large.
There is no need to repeat the deceptive assumption that those who do not support the bill are against the government. It is a ‘sin’ that former president Uhuru Kenyatta committed. The wages of such political ‘sins’ are still the same!
Therefore, if Nicolo Machiavelli were to stand before President Ruto, the renowned Italian diplomat and philosopher would still remind him of moderation on this taxation issue. Since taxation is cruel, Machiavelli would advise Ruto to use this cruelty sparingly and appropriately.
Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, School of Music and Media at Kabarak University