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Who will save Hustlers from the untamed greed for their taxes?

As predicted at the turn of the year days ago, the controversial affordable housing has taken centre stage in the economic and political machinations of the powers that be. But coming hot on the heels of this, to the chagrin of the real hustlers, is the increase in electricity bills and a proposed five per cent final tax on agricultural output.

When the KK duo promised that it is the Mama mboga and boda boda folks who shall sit in magnificent government offices to decide how they shall be governed, I am sure none of them would have contemplated today's reality.

I am curious to know whether the hustlers who were picketing days ago in support of the housing levy would now organise another mega-national protest in support of the impending tax on agricultural produce.

I would also graciously implore the KK elected representatives across the tea, coffee and maize growing regions of Central Kenya and Rift Valley to flood in all prime media talk shows to ask the electorate to support the five per cent tax on their farm produce.

This is in the spirit of equity and justice for the employed folks branded as greedy and enemies of progress lacking in empathy.

False hope

Holy scripture cautions us to be wary of sweet tongues. If there is one thing KK has excelled in, it is in whipping up emotions from pulpits. This week, there seemed to be a rush to launch several housing projects. And social media warriors of the administration haven’t missed the opportunity to explain how ingenious and noble this housing thing is to the hustler workers and suppliers.

However, one question remains unanswered: what is all this newly found love to house hustlers about? Who are the true target hustlers here?

Snippets into the answer to this question have emerged with the announcement of the price tag and terms and conditions of Boma Yangu houses on offer in Nakuru. Even if we possessed the faith and resilience of the Job of the Bible, there is something wickedly wrong about the architecture of this housing thing that would impede even a miracle from happening.

For starters, I do have these strange feeling that the flurry of events around the ongoing housing projects has to do with a targeted blackmail for the courts towards the pending ruling on the housing levy at the Appeals Court. It is also targeted at trying to whip up the emotions of elected representatives in friendly regions to support the Bill pending in Parliament to regularise the levy.

Truth be told, while by the laws of probability one or two real hustlers may actually buy a house under the Boma Yangu initiative, there would be no houses for this class of citizens. Equally true, of the estimated 3.1 million Kenyans in formal employment, the houses on offer are out of league for over 85 per cent of them purely on the basis of net household incomes. If we bring into consideration socio-cultural factors, then this ratio may go up to as high as 95 per cent. In a nutshell, the status quo will remain long after this project is dead, for dying it will. It exists on quick sand -period!  

The 2022 Annual Banking Supervision report by the Central Bank (CBK) identifies the biggest obstacle to mortgage facilities as low income levels at 31 per cent of those surveyed, up from 21 per cent for the same factor in 2021. The most recent Credit Survey report by the CBK for the quarter ending September 2023 projects non-performing loans will grow for the class of individual and household account holders in the last quarter of the year.

Besides, official data over the last two decades has consistently placed salaried Kenyans, earning at least Sh100,000 and above in the extreme minority. Other data by the CBK on actual deposit balances has placed accounts with at least a bank balance of Sh100,000 at about 2.8 per cent and those with at least Sh1 million at about 0.7 per cent consistently. Dollar millionaires remain about 3,000 from recent global wealth reports.

A casual glance at the prices of houses on offer at the Boma Yangu website as at the date of writing this article places the cheapest house available, a Studio in Machakos Township and Emgwen in Nandi County, at Sh920,000. A two-bedroom house in Rongai, Kajiado County, is on offer for Sh3,800,000, while the most expensive listed is a four-bedroom in Athi River, Machakos County, at Sh8 million (although no unit is available).

So who shall provide the demand for all these houses going up across various parts of the country? Already listed projects indicate several units are available. I could not verify how many have been taken per project. If the deal is so sweet as the administrations’ elites want us to believe, why aren’t folks scrambling for the houses? Or is it a case of collective foolishness on the part of the would-be target buyers?

Landmine

Last week, the top economic advisor for the regime confirmed in his X-handle (formerly Twitter) that the housing levy being collected is not for building the houses, but will be used to de-risk the private contractors doing the projects. This confirms what this column projected to be the reason why this housing thing seems to be a matter of life and death program for its promoters and sponsors.

De-risking simply means the contractors build the houses and cash out once they hand over the keys to the government. This is after they have been offered prime public land for free, waived all taxes, permits and transaction costs on the part of the developer.

The contractors remain shadowy to the taxpayers: The tone, similar to the Jubilee’s ‘Big Push Projects’, is that here are the houses, why are you asking questions?

This is the true definition of gangster operation, only this time, it is official complete with a cheering squad. The so-hyped jobs and business opportunities for hustlers are simply dry bones left on the table long after the feast is over.

If this were not true, then let us have all the private investors, including their directors, beneficial interest, cost per project, payment schedule and margins published and publicised in fulfillment of Article 201(1) of the Constitution of Kenya and the accompanying legislation.

After all, a 2008 UN-HABITAT report on the role of government in the housing market based on the experience of Asian countries, indicates heavy public spending on low-cost housing is not beneficial to the economy in developing countries.

According to this report, government investments in housing support growth in developed countries; large investments in low-cost housing and slums may not yield significant economic growth for poor countries.

Further, extremely poor people may not treat housing as a top priority over their other pressing daily needs. Status and cultural factors also play a key role on consumer decisions on housing. For instance, would the privileged middle class who can afford these housing units want to live in the neighborhoods the houses are in?

And will a studio or a one-bedroom be adequate for a hustler-household, for the hustlers who may be willing to commit to raise the Sh920,000-Sh1.5 million? Official data tells us hustler households have more children than middle-class households. Tutafakari ya Musa hayo.

By AFP 10 hrs ago
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