Ex-Defense CS Wamalwa urges MPs to reject tax hikes in new Finance Bill

DAP-K Party Leader Eugene Wamalwa at the Party Headquarters in Nairobi on February 14, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Former Defense Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has called on party MPs, to vote against any measures to further burden Kenyans.

Wamalwa who was speaking on Wednesday at the Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) party headquarters in Nairobi, emphasized the importance of shielding the populace from additional financial strain.

"With Parliament resuming its sessions, we want to ensure that our parliamentarians stand firm in rejecting any proposals that seek to escalate taxes on our already overburdened citizens. Kenyans are grappling with high taxation and living costs, and it is imperative that we do not exacerbate their plight through the Finance Bill, 2024," he said.

The Finance Bill, an integral component of the government's fiscal policy, has garnered heightened scrutiny in recent years as successive administrations have grappled with fiscal deficits and revenue shortfalls.

Against this backdrop, Wamalwa's rallying cry underscores the broader debate surrounding tax policy and economic management in the country.

Highlighting concerns over the budget policy statement, the DAP-K leader said that the Kenya Kwanza government may be inclined towards imposing additional taxes despite the history of the contentious Finance Act, 2023.

“As Parliament resumes, we know that the budget policy statement is being tabled and that statement is already showing indicators of Kenya Kwanza wanting to add taxes on anything and everything,” he said.

The Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) leader faulted the government for failing to address the cost of living citing rejection of proposals by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) aimed at alleviating the burden on citizens.

"We engaged in dialogue with our colleagues from Kenya Kwanza, proposing measures to address the cost of living. However, these proposals were met with resistance, and despite efforts to find common ground, the issue remains unresolved," he said.

In addition to fighting against tax hikes, Wamalwa urged Parliament to prioritise the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). With constitutional deadlines looming and a court order for the immediate recruitment of IEBC commissioners, the DAP-K leader emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation to ensure an electoral agency that commands public trust and confidence.

"As Parliament resumes, our top priorities are addressing the cost of living and reforming the IEBC to ensure transparent and credible elections in the future," he said.

Justice Thande Mugure ruled that the strict timelines to recruit the commissioners to conduct by-elections and boundaries review cannot wait anymore for politicians to agree.

In a directive aimed at averting a constitutional crisis, the judge instructed the existing IEBC selection panel to promptly resume the recruitment of IEBC chairperson and six commissioners.

However, the opposition through its leader Raila Odinga, criticised the court decision arguing that the process of recruiting IEBC commissioners can only commence once the Nadco report is passed in Parliament.

The report recommends the establishment of an expanded selection panel from the current seven-member to a nine-member selection panel.

Beyond tax policy and electoral reform, Wamalwa voiced opposition to the government's directive to lease sugar companies to private investors. 

He cited lack of public participation saying the move was illegal and urged the government to halt the leasing of sugar millers.

"The illegal privatisation of sugar companies without public participation is a grave injustice to the people. We are committed to challenging this decision and ensuring that the interests of workers and farmers are protected," said Wamalwa.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Crops Development's initiative to lease Nzoia, South Nyanza (Sony), Chemelil, Muhoroni, and Miwani sugar companies to private entities for 20 years has sparked controversy. Successful bidders are slated to assume control over assets, including factories, office buildings, machinery, and staff facilities, to revitalize the ailing sector.

President William Ruto has defended the government's decision arguing that the leasing will not make the companies privatized.

“What we shall not allow is privatisation, the company and the land must belong to the people. We can no longer proceed with a company that does not pay its workers and farmers, we want a company that prioritises the farmers and employees,” said Ruto.

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