New tax measures are not negotiable, President Ruto tells Kenyans

School children wave Kenyan flags during the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations at Moi Stadium in Embu

School children wave Kenyan flags during the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations at Moi Stadium in Embu yesterday. President Ruto called on Kenyans to make sacrifices for the sake of the country. 

Photo credit: Kevin Macharia | Nation

President William Ruto yesterday maintained that the controversial tax measures being pushed by his government are non-negotiable as they are meant to rescue the struggling economy.

Leaving no doubt that his government will push through the Finance Bill, 2023 and the mandatory three per cent housing levy, the President called on Kenyans to make sacrifices for the sake of the country.

Addressing Kenyans at his maiden Madaraka Day celebrations in Embu, Dr Ruto said it was the collective duty of all citizens to ensure that the five million unemployed youths secure jobs and the seven million people living in slums get decent housing.

“I know many people are asking how it is their duty or responsibility to think about those who don't have jobs or live in slums. If the liberators had asked how it was their business to fight for self-determination, we would have continued to be slaves to our masters,” the President said.

Dr Ruto said the controversial plan to deduct workers' salaries to fund the construction of affordable housing is meant to create jobs, stimulate growth in the manufacturing sector and transform the lives of the poor who live in slums in deplorable conditions.

He said the Affordable Housing Programme is premised on the economic goal of creating one million direct and indirect employment opportunities across the entire value chain in the housing ecosystem.

Dr Ruto argued that a single housing unit is capable of employing between three and five workers directly and a further eight workers indirectly in the manufacturing and transport and logistics sectors.

“By catalysing the construction of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units, we will also stimulate productivity and competitiveness in the production of cement, steel, paint, nails, gravel, timber, roofing materials, windows and doors, and many other products,” he said.

He said his government intends to move more Kenyans from renting to homeownership through the project, adding, human dignity was a key component of the project.

"We did not fight for independence to condemn our innocent compatriots to a life of suffering, marginalisation and indignity in the slums," he said.

The plan has been heavily criticised by both employers and employees and has also been opposed by civil servants, the Opposition and a section of the President's Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

For his part, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua assured Dr Ruto of his support in pushing through the tax measures, saying, it was the only way to get the economy back on track.

The DP urged other leaders to rally behind the proposed legislation, saying, it would help wean Kenya off public debt and enable it fund its own development and recurrent expenditure.

“We want to assure you that the majority of Kenyans are behind you. Forget our detractors.”