In a recent address to the Kenyan populace, Azimio La Umoja Leader Raila Odinga issued a passionate appeal, urging citizens to send a potent message to President William Ruto and the incumbent administration. His call to action was focused on having Kenyans vehemently refuse the elevated taxation proposed in the 2023 Finance Bill – a policy that Odinga believes will plunge the nation into a period of economic hardship.
The proposed taxes within the bill, according to Odinga, are a clear testament to the widening gulf between the nation’s leadership and its citizenry. He queried the current regime’s awareness of the pressing issues and economic challenges faced by the everyday Kenyan, stating, “Looking at the proposals, one cannot help asking what planet does Ruto live on? Does he understand what Kenyans are going through?”
Odinga continued, emphasizing the urgency of rectifying this disconnect, asserting that, “It is urgent that we bring Ruto back to earth because he lives on another planet,” underscoring his belief that the current administration is out of touch with the realities on the ground.
The Azimio leader detailed how the Finance Bill starkly reveals the disparity between what he describes as Ruto’s fantastical political narrative and the real experiences of ordinary Kenyan citizens. The proposed increases to the Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, Tax Procedures Act, and Excise Duty Act, Odinga argues, threaten to throttle Kenya’s economic growth and prosperity.
Taking a deep dive into the ramifications of the proposed bill, Odinga emphasized, “We must tell Ruto that when people choose to stay indoors because they want to spend less on expensive goods, it is bad for the economy. And we must tell Ruto that these things are happening now, here in this country.”
The government’s Housing Flagship Project, a policy that would mandate employed Kenyans to contribute 3% of their salary, was particularly singled out by Odinga. He derided it as a “fantasy dream,” criticizing the government’s overreach in its attempts to force Kenyans to contribute to the initiative via levy deductions. He strongly questioned the government’s ambiguous role in this initiative, stating “Nobody knows how the government became an investment advisor to Kenyans.”
The opposition coalition also raised a hue and cry over the government’s decision to slap a 16% VAT on staple commodities such as maize flour, cassava flour, and wheat flour – a move they deem unfair amidst the already soaring cost of living.
Raila Odinga pointed out, “From his fantasy world, Ruto wants to double the VAT on fuel from 8 percent to 16 percent. Pump prices will increase by Kshs 9 per liter of diesel and Kshs 10 per liter of petrol. The cost of goods, bus fare, and production will immediately rise, again.”
The opposition leader implored President Ruto to reconsider the taxing strategy as a means of raising revenue for government expenditure. Instead, he urged the administration to suspend the appointment of the 51 Chief Administrative Secretaries and called for stringent measures to seal revenue leakage points and reduce the size of the government.
“Freeze ministerial out-of-station allowances, ministerial house allowances, and domestic allowance for cabinet and principal secretaries. Stop corruption and theft of public funds,” he concluded, signaling the need for a more fiscally responsible and accountable government.