MPs on horns of a dilemma amid President Ruto warnings on Finance Bill

Members of Parliament take the oath of office at the National Assembly

The Executive’s push on the Finance Bill 2023 threatens the independence of Parliament as the legislative arm of the government. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua are spewing threats against opponents of the Finance Bill 2023, which seeks to introduce a raft of punitive tax measures, including a mandatory three per cent housing levy on salaried Kenyans.

This comes as MPs from President Ruto's Rift Valley backyard are on the horns of a dilemma ahead of the resumption of Parliament this week to debate the controversial legislation.

The Head of State and his deputy have warned MPs who will reject the bill to forget about development projects in their areas.

"I am waiting to see the MPs who will go against the government's plan to provide jobs for their constituents. We want to see who will oppose this Finance Bill,” Dr Ruto said in Narok.

The executive's push threatens the independence of parliament as the legislative arm of the government.

Mr Gachagua, on his part, said the government is relying on the bill to raise revenue and MPs should give it their full support if they expect to be given development funds.

"Some of you leaders are lying to Kenyans, but know that if your MP is against the Finance Bill, you should not ask for roads," he said.

Speaking in Kitui last Saturday, the country's second-in-command said the taxes will be used to fund the construction of schools, repair roads and other infrastructure.

"I am a person who speaks the truth; people have to pay taxes to fund our capital and recurrent expenditure. There has been a call to recruit more teachers, who will pay for that? I can't pay for it with my Sh1 million salary. That money will come from the people," he said.

On Monday, the DP issued another warning to governors not to oppose the bill. Addressing journalists after chairing an Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (Ibec) meeting, the DP urged the governors to support the new tax proposals.

"We are in the same boat and, if you do not support the bill, we will have no money to give you," Mr Gachagua warned.

The President is reported to have summoned Kenya Kwanza MPs opposed to the bill and told them to switch to the Opposition.

Rift Valley lawmakers could support the bill and face a backlash from an already financially burdened electorate due to the high cost of living.

Ruto's wrath

On the other hand, opposing it will mean facing the wrath of the President, who has vowed to crack the whip on government-leaning MPs who vote against his agenda.

The Finance Bill, 2023 proposes a raft of changes that are aimed at broadening the tax base and raising revenue to meet the government's ambitious Sh3.6 trillion budget for the 2023/2024 financial year.

William Ruto

President William Ruto arrives at Leshuta village in Narok West constituency for the thanksgiving ceremony of Environment CS Ms Soipan Tuya. He is accompanied by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and some of his Cabinet members.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Members of the National Assembly, senators and even governors from Dr Ruto's Rift Valley backyard are in a political bind with voters angry with their silence on issues affecting citizens’ livelihoods.

"We elected these leaders to articulate our issues, not to appease the executive. It is high time they take a clear political stand on issues that affect our livelihoods," lamented Ms Mary Too, a hawker in Eldoret.

Among other things, the Finance Bill, 2023 will see Kenyans part with three per cent of their salaries to fund the affordable housing programme.

Contributions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) will also be increased, especially for high earners.

Voters in Dr Ruto's backyard have vowed to vote out MPs, senators and governors who back the Bill in the next General Election.

"We will be watching closely to see how they vote. The outcome of the Bill will determine their political fates in the next election," said Mr Samuel Kosgei, a large-scale farmer from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.

President Ruto has joined Opposition leaders in calling for a public vote by MPs on the Finance Bill to help him identify “traitors”.

“I have heard a certain [Opposition] MP say that he wants the vote on the bill to be public.” 

“I fully support that. I want Kenyans to know that leaders who are against eradicating unemployment, those who will oppose the Finance Bill 2023 are enemies of development," Dr Ruto said in Narok West last week during a thanksgiving service held in honour of Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya. 

All the eight MPs from Nandi County — Julius Meli (Tindiret), Paul Byego (Chesumei), Bernard Kitur (Nandi Hills), Abraham Yego (Mosop), Maryanne Keitany (Aldai), Joses Lelmengit (Emgwen), Cynthia Muge (Woman Rep) and Samson Cherargei (Senator) have vowed to support the bill.

They said they will not go against President Ruto's edicts on issues of national importance.

"Kenya will not go to China and America to beg for loans if we support the Finance Bill 2023 and allow President Ruto to implement his development agenda," the MPs said at Meteitei Boys High School in Tindiret Constituency last weekend.

Mr Meli criticised Opposition leaders who oppose the bill, noting that Kenyans Kwanza, who are in the majority, will pass it when it is tabled in the National Assembly.

In West Pokot, MPs Peter Lochakapong (Sigor) and Dr Samuel Moroto (Kapenguria) have pleaded with Kenyans to trust President William Ruto's plan for the country, especially his intentions in the controversial Finance Bill, 2023.

The MPs said they have faith in President Ruto and his “transformation agenda” in line with the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. 

"Those who believe in William Ruto know that he cannot let this country go to the dogs. The Finance Bill, 2023 will mark the take-off of this country through the bottom-up transformation agenda," said Mr Lochakapong.

The Opposition has vowed to mobilise MPs and other Kenyans to vote against the bill, saying, it will hurt Kenyans by pushing up the cost of living.

Reporting by Benson Matheka, Barnabas Bii and Tom Matoke