Open letter to President Ruto, on Budget
Dear Mr President,
I write to you about the Finance Bill 2023, which is set to be tabled in Parliament by the Treasury cabinet secretary, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, next month.
The bill, or Budget, proposes a number of taxes aimed at raising revenue to help you realise your transformative agenda for our great country.
Among the proposals is a new contribution to the National Housing Development Fund, as well as the doubling of VAT on petroleum fuel to 16 per cent.
Your Excellency, when we last met, you shared with me how you love to hear from the ‘hustlers’ on the ground, and I can tell you things are tough. They feel they have been pushed to the limit. The people in the informal settlements really have hope in you. They feel this is their government—of hustlers.
Mr President, you need to come out clearly; how will this work? For someone earning Sh25,000, for instance, deduct NHIF, NSSF and the housing levy and they are left with just Sh21,000.
One spends Sh150 daily on the fare to work, which will increase with higher tax; some walk to save Sh20. They eat and pay rent, school fees and other bills. Some earn Sh15,000 or less.
The hustlers hoped unga prices would go down. Thanks to your intervention, it has started to. But they wonder how they will make ugali if they cannot afford cooking gas and kerosene.
It is critical that bus fare does not increase. And yes, the hustlers want good houses as you promised, but the levy will hurt.
Your Excellency, the hustlers are worried about this Budget. Please, remove some of these taxes for their sake. I realise the difficult position the country finds itself in. With the debt crisis, in the next 10 years, we may be spending more than 60 per cent of our taxes on debt servicing.
The hustlers that I meet are asking Your Excellency to stop the wastefulness in the government; this is the only way out of the debt hole.
When they hear that your office, and those of your deputy and the Prime Cabinet Secretary, have been allocated Sh802 million to buy luxury cars, and your economic adviser admits that the government is wasteful, it’s a kick in the teeth.
When I met you and I looked into your eyes, I saw a man with a heavy burden but a determination to transform the country. Mr President, you are Hustler No.1. The hustlers have sent me to tell you not to forget them.
In Mathare two weeks ago, Jane Njeri told me: “Kennedy, you always meet these big people; can you tell them how we feel? The price of kerosene is up and it is going to double. How will I cook?”
In Mombasa, Aisha Juma, who lives in Kisauni, had the same concerns. She talked about your promise to lower the cost of gas to Sh300 by June 1. But she heard you say in an interview that it might not be possible.
Chief Hustler, cut government spending but spare the empty pockets of the poor. May God help Kenya thrive in these hard times.
Kennedy Odede, Shofco founder/CEO, Nairobi