Big divide as Azimio MPs vow to shoot down Bill

MPs during the Budget estimates reading at Parliament Buildings on June 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Legislators from Azimio la Umoja Coalition have vowed to shoot down the controversial Finance Bill to be tabled before the House on Tuesday, next week.

This, as the Sh4 trillion budget-reading exercise by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u elicited mixed reactions, further widening the rift between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio MPs.

Leader of Minority at the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi expressed disappointment with the current regime for its failure to plug the budget deficit and consequently “overburdening” Kenyans with taxes.

He termed the budget over-ambitious and a basis for the Finance Bill to introduce more tax-raising measures.

“We are giving the Finance Committee until Monday to consider the submissions of Kenyans during public participation. If the report does not meet our expectations, as Azimio we are going to mobilise to reject that Finance Bill,” he said.

The Molo MP Kuria Kimani-led committee has currently retreated to Naivasha for report writing and is expected to table the report before the House on Tuesday.

“This time around, we will do things differently. We have already put on notice members from Azimio to be physically present at the time of debating and voting on the Finance Bill. We have directed them not to engage in any unnecessary travel outside the country,” said Wandayi.

Aware that the Raila Odinga-led faction lacks the simple majority to defeat their Kenya Kwanza, Wandayi said they are already reaching out to leaders across the political divide to vote against unfavourable tax policies. “We are engaging our colleagues not in Azimio and some have been speaking against this Bill in churches and funerals. We want them to put that talk into action by voting with us,” he said.

Yesterday, some MPs criticised the budget, seeking to know how President Ruto’s administration would finance it.

This, after Treasury CS submitted to the House that taxes would help avail Sh2.9 trillion of the 2024/2025 budget, while the government would engage foreign debt to plug a Sh600 billion deficit. The rest, Prof Njuguna said, would be sourced from donors and appropriations in aid.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Joyce Bensouda was sceptical and termed the budget unrealistic. “Even before the Finance Bill is tabled before the House I am opposing it. It is unsustainable and unrealistic. You want to tax a country that is unemployed, a country not healthy, no drugs in hospitals, the nurses are out in the streets, and our JSS teachers are sacked yet you are talking of a Sh4 trillion budget? We are just joking,” Ms Bensouda said.

Kasarani MP Ronald Karauri expressed doubt on revenue-raising measures presented by the CS. “I am in doubt about the revenue-raising measures because I am not sure they will raise the deficit. The government was unable to widen the tax base and I therefore do not foresee the realism of this budget,” he said.

But Emurrua Dikir MP Johana Ngeno lauded the budgetary allocations noting they would aid development. “The allocations to the housing sector for instance will facilitate the construction of student hostels which has been a challenge to many public universities,” he said.

Sirisia MP John Walukhe also defended the budget saying time would prove that the revenue-raising measures will ensure the government meets its targets.