The Kenya Kwanza Alliance administration’s Sh3.6 trillion national budget is quite ambitious.
There is nothing wrong with that, as the resources are needed to provide essential services and fund development programmes across the country. Since coming into office, President William Ruto has made it known that he abhors the runaway borrowing by his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, hence the need to raise more tax revenue.
The intention may be good, but the problem is making it too punitive. It is as if Kenyans, who work so hard to put food on the table for their families, must be whipped into line. This blanket punishment is wrong.
The budget apparently targets M-Pesa users, landlords and consumers to raise a big chunk of the Sh3.641 trillion by introducing new tax measures and ending state-funded subsidies on fuel and electricity. The administration should persuade more Kenyans to pay taxes without threatening them with fire and brimstone.
Having the Kenya Revenue Authority spying on Kenyans to improve tax compliance is the wrong way to go about it. KRA should, instead, help people to grow their small businesses by making tax compliance easier.
A steep increase in taxes is going to badly hit consumers, who are already grappling with the high cost of living. One wishes the same zeal could be channelled into improving the economy, for the taxman to take his pound of flesh.
It is not all negative, though, as 30,000 vacancies have been created for teachers. Farmers will also benefit from fertiliser subsidies, security officers will get improved perks and the Hustler Fund disbursements will be ramped up. Tax cheats should be relentlessly pursued, but ironically well-connected big tax evaders are often rewarded instead.
Why not first curb the rampant wastage of public resources, amounting to a third of the annual budget, or as former President Uhuru Kenyatta revealed, Sh2 billion stolen daily?
Paying taxes is a patriotic duty that should be a national joy, especially if the resources are used to improve people’s well-being and not to line the pockets of a few, greedy individuals.