Consider alternative funding for housing project, Gusii leaders urge Ruto

William Ruto

President William Ruto. He defended the proposed new taxes contained in the Finance Bill 2023, saying Kenyans are not overtaxed.

Photo credit: File

A majority of elected leaders from Kisii and Nyamira counties are questioning the urgency of the proposed three percent housing tax on Kenyans instead urging the government to look for alternative funding for the affordable housing project being pushed by President William Ruto.

The leaders claimed that taxing low-earning public employees who have been craving for salary increment over the years will burden them more than they are currently shouldering.

Senators Richard Onyonka (Kisii), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira), Kisii Woman Rep Dorice Aburi, MPs Anthony Kibagendi (Kitutu Chache South), Patrick Osero (Borabu), Dr Charles Onchoke (Bonchari) and Mr Clive Gisairo (Kitutu Masaba) all questioned the urgency behind the housing tax bill.

They asked President William Ruto to shelve it for now until the economy improves, saying the Finance Bill 2023 will be punitive to the already struggling Kenyans.

Speaking at various functions, the leaders criticised the few leaders from the region who are supporting the levy, saying they had failed to read the mood of the people in the two counties.

South Mugirango MP and Majority Whip in the National Assembly Silvanus Osoro, MPs Alpha Miruka (Bomachoge Chache) and Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango) are supporting the Bill and say they will vote for it in parliament.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) lawmakers asked their counterparts in the Azimio La Umoja coalition to read the Bill carefully and see its benefits.

Mr Onyonka while opposing the Bill said most members of the public currently want the government to reduce the high cost of living, not buying houses.

“Next month Mr President, the fuel prices will increase, what will our people do? The poverty levels have reached a stage where if you do not watch out, this country is going to break down. It has got nothing to do with Azimio or Mr Raila Odinga. That is the voice of Gusii residents,” said Mr Onyonka during a thanks giving ceremony of Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho.

Ms Aburi said instead of taxing Kenyans, the government should consider focusing on making our land more productive so as to have enough food.

“This tax issue should not even feature now. What we want is food, we are hungry. You cannot tax a hungry person now, how will they be productive? We need to first think of how to produce more food. Let us have policies which will help Kenyans more,” said the Kisii Woman Rep.

She added, “I will vote against that Bill. I urge other lawmakers to shoot it down when it comes to parliament. We do not want policies that will oppress our people.”

Mr Omogeni said the Finance Bill is crafted to cushion the rich but add more burden to the common citizens.

“Adding a further eight percent tax on petroleum products thus making it 16 percent will have a trickle down effect by directly impacting on the rise of prices in common basic goods like maize flour, rice and sugar. Even the cost of services like boda boda and bus fares will go up,” said the Nyamira senator.

He said the three percent levy on housing fund is an avenue to tax Kenyans more through programs that have no direct benefit to them.

Mr Kibagendi who spoke during a thanks giving ceremony of Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho, asked clerics who are close allies of President Ruto to speak to him quietly about the rejection of the Bill by majority Kisii residents.

“This Bill aims at increasing the already high cost of living.  Adding the three percent levy will hurt our people more. That levy is not urgent, housing issues are not a priority now for most Kenyans. They are hungry and need food,” said Mr Kibagendi.

Mr Gisairo said the government cannot tax Kenyans more, not until it honours its promise of pesa mfukoni (money in the pockets) first, by creating jobs.

 “The high cost of living is killing Kenyans, people cannot feed their children yet someone somewhere feels that the pain is not enough,” said the Kitutu Masaba MP.

 Dr Onchoke said he does not support the 2023 Finance Bill because it is retrogressive; it stifles growth and development; it does not enjoy sufficient support by key stakeholders; and it exacerbates the current unbearable economic conditions (high cost of living).