If there is anything we can learn from the recent newspaper headlines of Pauline Waithira, a hustler popularly known as Mama Mboga bemoaning being used by Kenya Kwanza, and the discourse around the Finance Act; it is that Kenyans have every reason not to trust politicians to take care of their taxes.
Kenya Kwanza government has stuck to the script of the political elite who promise heaven during campaigns but as soon as they enter the echelons of power neglect their core base, the hustlers boda bodas and mama mbogas, violating their trust and leaving them with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Across the world there is a lot of disillusionment in the political class that is more fixated in attaining and conserving power than in changing the everyday lives of ordinary people. This has moved the masses to believe those offering quick solutions, which is usually the politicians outside government. However once they ascend to power politicians tend to mirror the ills of their predecessor and dash the hopes of the electorate.
President William Ruto, since the electioneering period has made dozens if not hundreds of promises day in day which inevitably would be difficult to keep under the current macroeconomic environment.
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In trying to fulfil these castles in the air, the President has gone for taxpayer pocket in a manner none of his predecessors had done. Even with the reduction of some tax and levy rates in the Finance Bill 2023 after public furore, its passage will still see the Kenyan taxpayer give more to the government in increased taxes ranging from the 16 per cent value added tax on fuel to the 1.5 percent housing levy.
This has meant that chasing one thing is creating a problem elsewhere, trying to fund the promises through tax is creating inflation and trying to build houses to create jobs will probably wipe out more jobs as employers find it expensive to sustain workers.
Hence while the President’s promised to lower the cost of living, once he took over, he has probably fuelled more inflation with his policies including lifting subsidies on fuel and controls on forex. By the time he ascended to the presidency Kes2000 would give me 130 units of power tokens. Four months later it dropped to 98 units before reducing further to currently about 75 units despite public declarations and acclamations promising otherwise.
Devolution is the engine running the country since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution but county governments have continually grappled with delayed resource allocation from the National government crippling their operations.
This is despite the President assuring county chiefs at the onset that their share of national revenue would be transferred in a timely and predictable manner in accordance to the law. The promises are many and belabouring to list them all here is besides the point.
Thing is, the President has solidified the perception amongst the populace that he is sly and unaccountable and is now nicknamed #MtukufuLies. As Steven Convey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People puts it in his book, “character communicates most eloquently,” that is “what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.
It is no wonder very few Kenyans believe the government will deliver the houses let alone the many jobs being touted by state officials. And it is risky to lose the goodwill of the people in their governments right to tax them. It is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Instead, the government should through frugality and prudence, utilise the golden egg already available efficiently and continue providing an enabling environment for the goose to keep the golden eggs dropping instead of pushing up non-compliance, tax dodging and outright collapse in thinly capitalised businesses.