President William Ruto yesterday called on Kenya Kwanza lawmakers to pass the controversial Finance Bill, 2023 in its totality, a move that could lead to a fierce fight with the Opposition.
The meeting came on the day the Senate resumed its sittings after a month’s recess, and with their National Assembly counterparts expected back next Tuesday, with the Finance Bill their biggest, most urgent agenda.
The budget will be read on June 15 and will be President Ruto’s first full Budget since taking over from President Uhuru Kenyatta in September last year.
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga had last week threatened to call for countrywide street protests should the Finance Bill 2023 be forced on citizens through Parliament.
Yesterday, multiple legislators who talked to Nation after the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting at State House said the President urged them to approve the Bill.
“We will continue to be a house that consults, together and share ideas and suggestions. As democrats, a good idea gives ways to a better. It is good to surrender good ideas for better ideas. I am truly grateful to the executive that all matters sent to the floor of the House be it Bills or names have been approved. I appreciate always that there is a need to work together to run the affairs of the country,” President Ruto told the MPs.
Surprisingly, despite waxing lyrical about how much clarity the meeting brought to a myriad of issues, none weighed in on the controversial 16 per cent VAT on fuel that has seen prices of goods go through the roof.
The meeting that started early in the morning and lasted for the better part of the day is said to have touched on the debt ceiling, the three per cent housing levy, the 35 per cent income tax on workers earning over Sh500,000, internet connectivity and greening the economy.
The meeting also brought on board cabinet secretaries (CSs), principals secretaries (PSs) and members of the East Africa Legislative Assembly.
Housing Charles Hinga did a presentation on the Housing Fund, which constituted demystifying the three per cent contribution which is capped at Sh2,500.
Mr Hinga said “97 per cent of Kenyans cannot afford a house. Housing Fund gives them a chance to be homeowners.”
President Ruto had described the three per cent housing contribution as “mandatory patriotism” and called on the MPs to explain to the public the essence of the proposed levy.
Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya took the MPs through the President’s agenda to increase the country’s forest cover by planting 15 billion by 2032. Her Education counterpart Ezekiel Machogu also gave a presentation on his sector.
Information, Communication and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo presented a status update on internet connectivity, confirming that every ward will have a digital hub.
The meeting also discussed the thorny issue of debt management, where MPs resolved that Parliament will not be required to increase the debt ceiling when it is capped at a fixed 55 per cent against the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The meeting also discussed the alignment of the multi-billion National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), carbon credit in Singapore, subsided prices of goods, and 250,000 jobs in Germany among other incentives.