Allow me to fix Uhuru's economic mess, President Ruto tells Azimio MPs

President William Ruto

President William Ruto is received by Bishop Charles Asilutwa of Diocese of Maseno North yesterday at Milimani ACK Christ Cathedral in Kakamega. The President attended a thanksgiving service and harambee in aid of the church.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has pleaded with MPs to pass the controversial Finance Bill 2023 to enable him raise money to fix the economic mess the country is in.

Speaking in Kakamega yesterday, Dr Ruto said the Sh9 trillion debt borrowed by the previous government had put the country in a difficult economic situation.

The President, who was speaking at a prayer service and fundraiser at ACK Christ the King Cathedral in Kakamega County, urged the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition MPs to ignore instructions from their party leaders and join their Kenya Kwanza colleagues in supporting the bill.

Dr Ruto said: "Some political parties (referring to the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Party) are writing letters to MPs instructing them not to support the Finance Bill. While you (MPs) are reading the letters, I would like to ask you if you have read letters from those who voted for you.”

Finance Bill

He was speaking as the Finance Bill, which sailed through the second reading in Parliament last week, is set to be amended by MPs at committee stage on Tuesday.

The President made an impassioned plea to MPs to pass the Bill in its current form and urged voters not to threaten their elected leaders to reject the proposed tax plan.

"Our plan is to increase local production against increased imports. MPs will be in Parliament on Tuesday. The simple thing to do is to vote in favour of the Finance Bill," said Dr Ruto, who noted that it was unfortunate that some lawmakers stayed away from the House on Tuesday last week when the Bill came up for debate.

He explained that his administration is pursuing a three-pronged approach to economic growth that includes bilateral agreements with development partners such as Germany, Canada and the US to create one million jobs for Kenyan youths who will then plough back into the country an income of Sh4 billion annually.

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Dr Ruto said his government is also focusing on digital jobs and has also started setting up county agglomeration and industrial parks to undertake value addition, agro-processing and job creation.

He added that it is only through the proposed tax plan that the economy will be revived to enable his government create jobs for the unemployed youth.

While warning that the opposition's threats to mobilise their supporters for mass action will not grow the economy, Dr Ruto said he was emulating former President Mwai Kibaki's plan that coined the slogan "Kulipa ushuru ni kujitegemea (Pay taxes for self-reliance)".

"We have a debt of about Sh9 trillion and Kenya is in danger of being auctioned off. I have said I will not continue with the culture of borrowing again."

The head of state defended the bill, saying it is aimed at discouraging the importation of products that can be found locally to contribute to the country's economic growth.

Dr Ruto said his government was seeking to tax the importation of fish to boost the earnings of local fishermen.

The President also said that taxing imported sugar, cement and other building materials will help protect local manufacturers from unfair competition and ensure economic growth and job creation.

"Kenya spends Sh100 billion every year importing cooking oil that can be produced locally. Together with the counties, we want to move in this direction. On the sugar issue, I will soon table a proposal in Parliament to write off the Sh60 billion debt our five millers are struggling with. I urge MPs to support it. We will not privatise any mill.

Housing plan

On the controversial housing plan that seeks to impose a 1.5 per cent tax on workers, Dr Ruto said he was borrowing the plan from Singapore and Malaysia, saying the two Asian countries had managed to grow their economies after implementing the programme.

The President added that his government was keen to turn around the health sector by employing 100,000 community health promoters to provide services at village level to reduce the burden in this crucial sector.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who had accompanied Dr Ruto, urged Kenyans not to see the tax plan as a Dr Ruto affair but as a collective plan to ensure home-grown solutions to the challenges facing the country.

"Let us have a sense of responsibility to the nation. The President is doing everything he can. Kenya's problems are for all of us, not just for the President. The taxes are not for Ruto, they are to fund employment opportunities," said Mr Mudavadi.