Azimio demand recall of the finance Bill, 2024

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The opposition now wants a complete overhaul of the controversial Finance Bill 2024.
A meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Group (PG) held at Nairobi's County Hall on Tuesday night resolved to reject the proposed legislation to raise revenue to finance Kenya Kwanza's next budget. 
They accused President William Ruto's administration of playing mind games with Kenyans over a crucial piece of legislation meant to improve the country's economy. 
Instead, they dismissed the proposals dropped by the government as piecemeal and failing to address the grievances of Kenyans suffering from punitive taxes.
"The purported withdrawal of some proposals from the Finance Bill will not make any difference. The Bill is bad. Kenyans should continue to push for its total withdrawal from Parliament or be defeated on the floor of the House," the meeting resolved.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, who read out the statement, admitted that the removal of the egregious proposals in the Bill was not done in good faith but as a result of tremendous pressure from members of the public and the opposition.

Piecemeal changes

"The changes to the Bill announced today (Tuesday) give the impression that the government is playing mind games with the people. They create a sense that some of the proposals that have now been dropped were included in the original Bill just to create outrage and allow the administration to claim that it is listening and caring," said Wandayi.
Azimio questioned the wisdom of taxing bread, motor vehicles and sugarcane, among others.
"There was never any justification for proposing to increase the tax on bread. There was no justification for proposing to tax sugarcane delivered to factories," Mr Wandayi complained.
He continued: "The car tax was silly and outrageous from the start. The evil mind that came up with it was simply testing the resolve and emotions of Kenyans. It takes a bad government to govern by mind games and Kenya Kwanza is such a government".

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Despite the amendments, Mr Wandayi indicated that as a coalition they are not convinced that they go deep enough to make the end product a law that can promote investment and economic growth and curb corruption, especially budget corruption and wasteful spending. 
"We will therefore push for further changes to the Bill and turn it into a document for growth and not stagnation. 
Some of Azimio's demands are that the export promotion levy of 10 per cent on clinkers used to make cement is a tool for stagnation. 
They argue that it is designed to stifle competition. 
"As a country, we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we make laws just to protect one businessman. The export promotion tax must be dropped," he said.
He stressed, "We are also demanding the total scrapping of the Transport CS proposal to increase the fuel levy by Ksh9 per litre. We are against the idea that transport, which includes the movement of goods and people, is some kind of luxury that this country can do without".
The opposition noted that without the movement of goods and people, there is no economy to talk about. 

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"Our position is that there should be no more ad hoc increases in fuel prices. As a coalition, we will scrutinise the Bill more closely and demand amendments in more areas as they emerge," he indicated.
The Ugunja MP said that as the opposition, they have a duty to stand up for the electorate and the country and encouraged Kenyans to continue to engage with the Bill and continue to demand that the government does the right thing. 

"We also applaud the emerging citizen power that has put pressure on MPs and arrogant government officials, leading to the current climb-down," he said. 
He added: "We take particular note of the strong social media campaign, initially dismissed by some bureaucrats as insignificant, which has now borne some fruit, however minimal. We urge our citizens and our leaders not to relent but to keep up the pressure until the government does the right thing". 

Citizen power

According to the MPs, there is no crisis as the 2023 Finance Bill is in place and can serve as a substitute for the controversial one. 
"We were a total of 101 members, with a good number sending apologies, so in total we could be 160. After tremendous pressure from the public and the opposition, Kenya's Kwanza regime has agreed to remove some of the controversial proposals in the Bill.
"We urge our citizens and our leaders not to relent but to keep pushing until the government does the right thing," the legislator added.