Inside Politics

Drop entire Budget and redraft another, Azimio tells Ruto

Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 05:20 | By
Drop entire Budget and redraft another, Azimio tells Ruto
Azimio leader Raila Odinga (right) with Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi during a press conference in Nairobi, yesterday. PD/Njenga Kung’u

Azimio la Umoja has demanded the withdrawal of the Finance Bill, 2023 in its entirety, accusing President William Ruto’s administration of imposing punitive taxes on Kenyans.

In a statement read by Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi at a press conference, the coalition demanded the Kenya Kwanza administration come up with fresh Budget proposals that do not further burden citizens already struggling with high cost of maize flour, sugar, fuel, school fees and electricity.

After a meeting of its parliamentary group, which brought together legislators drawn from both the National Assembly and Senate and the Azimio leadership, Wandayi said MPs from the Minority side had pledged to sign a public commitment to oppose the Finance Bill once Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung’u reads it in Parliament on June 13.

The Final Bill requires a simple majority for the new tax measures to kick in on July 1.

To shore up its numbers in the National Assembly, Azimio also demanded that MPs elected under Jubilee Party, an affiliate of Azimio, but who had switched allegiance to Kenya Kwanza must resign and seek a fresh mandate from voters. Some of the rebel MPs have in the past indicated that they would vote in favour of the controversial tax measures.

Azimio also gave the government until Tuesday to meet a raft of demands, including lowering the cost of living before the suspended bi-partisan talks can resume.

President William Ruto had initiated the talks after a series of weekly protests that Azimio leader Raila Odinga had called to push the government to lower the high cost of living. The talks were suspended last week after Azimio accused Kenya Kwanza of lacking sincerity.

Wandayi said the talks would remain suspended until the controversial Finance Bill — over which the public participation window closed on Monday — is withdrawn and Kenya Kwanza presents a fresh one. “It is our position that the Finance Bill as presently crafted must be withdrawn and replaced by a Bill that appreciates the suffering the people of Kenya are going through. Azimio MPs have resolved to sign a public pledge to oppose the Bill, awaiting its withdrawal,” said Wandayi, also the Ugunja MP.

The law on preparation of the Finance Bill stipulates that the process begin in March, culminating in public participation, which ended on Monday, after which the Finance Committee sits to review the various memoranda before the Treasury CS presents the Final Budget speech in the National Assembly on the same day as his counterparts from other East Africa Community member States.

Yesterday, Wandayi said the Azimio leadership does not believe anyone living in the country can come up with the raft of taxes contained in the Finance Bill, 2023. “There are businesses struggling with shortage of supplies and high taxes; Kenyans struggling with high medical expenses; parents; civil servants struggling with diminishing pay and high tax deductions. Our members have come to the conclusion that it has only bad news, worse news and the worst news.”

With him at the press conference were Senate Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo, his deputy Enoch Wambua, Senate Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina and his deputy Edwin Sifuna. Wandayi charged that the taxation proposals offer no support for working people and upcoming businesses, and that for the taxes that the government is seeking to levy, citizens are unlikely to get anything in return.

 “We oppose the burden being imposed on working people through reckless measures like housing levy, income tax and taxes on per diem. We oppose increased taxes on start-ups and small businesses. We oppose increased taxes on fuel, which will raise the cost of the product by at least Sh10 (per litre),” said Wandayi.

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