Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on Saturday insisted that the controversial Finance Bill 2023 will be passed into law despite vociferous opposition from the Azimio coalition.
Mr Gachagua said the government is not worried because the Kenya Kwanza coalition has the numbers in the National Assembly to ensure the bill sails through.
The DP, who was speaking in Kitui when he presided over a fundraiser in aid of St Charles Lwanga Boys Secondary School, said the bill must be passed to enable the government to fund its development and recurrent expenditure.
He dismissed the concerns of opposition MPs as misleading and only meant to excite the public, saying the proposed law is good for Kenya's accelerated economic growth.
"The truth is, and you know it very well, even if you oppose the Finance Bill, it will still pass. You do not have the numbers. So what is the need to oppose something that is going to pass anyway? There is no need," the DP asked in an apparent response to Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu's declaration that he would oppose the bill.
The Finance Bill, 2023 dominated the speeches at the fundraiser, with Wiper Party's Mr Makali, who was the host, telling the DP that it was wrong for the government to tax Kenyans beyond their financial capacity.
"I have a PhD in economics and I can tell you that this is a bad law because no country in the world has progressed by taxing its people beyond their earning capacity," the three-term MP said.
He cited the proposal to increase VAT on petroleum products from the current 8 per cent to 16 per cent and the 3 per cent housing levy as the most punitive.
Mr Makali called for a negotiated settlement on the two provisions, with the government sitting down with the opposition to discuss other alternatives to raise tax revenue.
"We need roundtable discussions to first determine the projected revenues because if the bill is passed as is, it will be counterproductive," he said.
Mr Makali told the DP that as members of the opposition, they may not be UDA shareholders but they certainly represent Kenyans who are on the taxpayers' register.
Earlier, Kitui East MP Nimrod Mbai also said the bill would pass in Parliament because the government enjoys a comfortable majority in the House.
Mr Mbai questioned why salaried workers were opposed to the 3 per cent housing levy when it would benefit the same communities they come from.
But Mr Gachagua said the passage of the Finance Bill will help the country raise its own revenue to fund development and projects.
"It is hypocritical for leaders to call on the government to implement development projects while at the same time opposing the proposed measures to raise tax revenue to fund such projects," he said.
The DP said the government will not go on a borrowing spree that will saddle Kenyans with unnecessary debt to finance its development projects and recurrent expenditure.
He said the country had been pushed to its financial limits by excessive borrowing in the previous regime.
"We took the country to the limit. We cannot go down that road again. When you are in a hole, you cannot keep digging, we have to get out of the financial hole we are in," the DP said.
Mr Gachagua said the best way for the country to move forward was to pay taxes to build a pool of adequate resources for its recurrent and development expenditure.
"If we don't collect taxes, we won't be able to implement the development projects we have lined up across the country," the DP said.
He urged leaders from the Ukambani region to rally behind the Finance Bill.
"We have employed more teachers and we will continue to build more infrastructure and employ more teachers only if we raise enough taxes," Mr Gachagua said from Kitui.
The Deputy President also urged leaders in Ukambani region to rally behind the government and reject those who mislead the people through regressive policies.
The DP also promised a facelift for the institution, describing it as a premier school in the region, and pledged to buy a bus for the school in response to a request from the students.
Mr Gachagua was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Ezekiel Machogu (Education) and Peninah Malonza (Tourism), area MP Dr Makali Muli and a number of MPs from the area and elsewhere.