What you need to know:
- While agreeing with the President that it will not be plausible to offer tax breaks as only five counties are affected, the legislators noted that a lifeline fund will offer stipends for food in the affected counties.
Three legislators have asked the government to reallocate the Sh14 billion meant for a referendum on the 2010 Constitution to a lifeline Covid-19 fund for about four million Kenyans in five counties.
The counties are Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nakuru , which President Uhuru Kenyatta placed under a lockdown on March 26, after declaring them disease infested.
The legislators, who spoke in Nairobi on Tuesday, also want at least Sh50 billion slashed from the budgets of the ministries of Defense and Interior used to finance mass testing and acquisition of a Covid-19 vaccine for all Kenyans.
Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and MPs Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) and John Kiarie (Dagoretti South) noted that the new measures the President announced, to curb a deadlier third wave of Covid-19 infections, have robbed people not only of their livelihoods but also their dignity.
“We are cognizant of the devastation caused by the pandemic. We are, however, afraid to inform our President that the measures are threatening human dignity as families now face starvation,” Ms Kihika said. “The situation on the ground is different.”
“Great security threat”
In the 2021 Budget Policy Statement (BPS) passed by the National Assembly, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has been allocated 14.39 billion to prepare for and conduct a referendum.
In light of this, the Nakuru senator was apprehensive that failure to respond to the situation immediately will be akin to fueling anger and desperation among Kenyans, a situation she said can be catastrophic.
Ms Kihika noted that it will be imprudent for money to continue lying in the accounts of the Defense and Interior ministries, “when the greatest security threat and war we now have to fight is against this pandemic”.
“Immediate and urgent measures need to be instituted and all efforts and energy redirected to this devastating situation our people are facing. The rollout of a mandatory mass testing and vaccination campaign in the regions affected by the lockdown period is critical,” she said.
In reallocating the referendum billions, the MPs want at least Sh3,500 given to households in the five counties.
Support for businesses
Mr Ichung’wah called on the government to realign its budget to support businesses affected by the lockdown, such as hotels, bars and food kiosks, as well as the vendors who supply the hotels, bars and those in the transport sector.
The support measures include a government supported waiver of loans interest for those servicing loans and a moratorium on principal repayment for at least six months.
“Fathers and mothers who only two weeks ago could fend for and provide food for their children are now sinking into depression as they stare at their starving children sleep without a meal,” said Mr Ichung’wah.
In his announcement, President Kenyatta said the curfew in the disease infested zone would begin at 8pm, unlike in other counties where the start time will remain 10pm.
He also suspended bar operations and banned restaurants and eateries in the affected counties from selling alcohol, and said they will only offer takeaway services.
In-person worship in the five counties were also suspended until further notice, with places of worship in the rest of the country required to adhere to the one third rule regarding capacities during gatherings.
It is these measures that the MPs say have adversely affected lives.
“As leaders elected by these people, we cannot escape from this glaring reality,” the Kikuyu MP said.
“Being grassroots leaders, we are overwhelmed by calls and text messages from people asking for help, either with food, rent or other basic necessities,” he added.
Use of loans
While agreeing with the President that it will not be plausible to offer tax breaks as only five counties are affected, the legislators noted that a lifeline fund will offer stipends for food in the affected counties.
The interest waiver for loans, Mr Kiarie said, should be financed through the recently acquired loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Recently, the IMF announced a Sh255 billion loan to Kenya for budgetary support for the 2020/21 financial year as well as support against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We cannot put the counties on partial lockdown without offering the people an alternative. The people are tired and angry. This is not the time to provoke them,” Mr Kiarie said.