By Seliphar Machoni
When we elected our leaders, we hoped for a change and for new governance. But it is so sad that we have to face economic pain under leaders who promised us heaven during the campaigns.
Kenyans are preparing for tough times ahead after the signing of the Finance Bill 2023 into a law by the president, William Samoei Ruto. The Finance Bill mainly aims to increase the tax base and increase the amounts collected from taxes by about 300 billion in the 2023/24 financial year. The effect of this would be an increase in prices of basic commodities and a general increase in the cost of living. This came as a shock to Kenyans since that is not what they were promised by the current government.
The President went ahead with signing the finance bill into law despite his promises to Kenyans of lowering the cost of living so that the poor Kenyans whom he referred to as “Hustlers” could have a better life, but the finance bill will further distance him from the so-called hustlers.
“We are forming a government that will turn around the economy and put money in the pocket of a common mwananchi,” said Ruto last year in one of his political forums as he harshly blamed the former President Uhuru Kenyatta for making life unbearable for Kenyans.
Once the president stepped into the government, he forgot all his promises to Kenyans and followed his former boss’ footsteps. He blamed Uhuru for making life unbearable for common mwananchi, but that is what he is doing now.
According to popular opinion and numerous polls conducted by a number of pollsters, many Kenyans were against the Finance Bill and called for its review. The fact that the President went ahead and lobbied for its passing and went ahead to ascent to it puts him at loggerheads with the public.
Doubling the Value Added Tax on fuel to 16% will affect the cost of almost everything including basic commodities like food staff. Some of the boda boda riders that the president claims tocherish will directly be affected by this and their livelihood will be at risk and on the brink. What if they won’t be able to fuel their boda bodas, how will they earn a living?
Even with the evidence seen all over, our able president defends himself by saying that he has good intentions of increasing government revenues to help the country develop and revive the economy.
“We don’t intend to punish Kenyans. We want to create employment opportunities for the youths, through the amendments,” he said during one of the media briefings.
The finance bill crisis caught the attention of the opposition leader Raila Odinga, who warned to go back to the streets if the bill is passed into law. He reminded the president of his promises to Kenyans.
“Ruto, you have forgotten what you promised Kenyans whom you considered as hustlers and you are now punishing them by increasing taxes and not considering the cost of living. Kenyans are too overburdened with the high cost of living and cannot afford more taxes,” said Raila.
William Luchetu, a boda boda rider from Kakamega town, said that President Ruto has betrayed their trust and he has broken his promises to hustlers.
“During the campaign, Ruto promised boda boda people that he will make our lives and work easier by bringing down fuel prices and prices of commodities like maize flour, sugar and other essentials, but now he is doing the opposite. I am very disappointed with the Kenya Kwanza government naona nikirudi nyumbani na pikipiki yangu.” Luchetu says.
Amelda Auma, who is a vegetable seller and the owner of a small vegetable farm in Kwisero constituency, Kakamega county, complains about his vegetables going bad due to lack of a market and transportation.
“I am making losses in my business because of the high prices of fuel. Boda boda riders have hiked the prices of transportation of vegetables to the market. As mama mboga we are suffering, we cannot take our vegetables to the market. The business is bad. We hustlers have been forgotten,” Auma says.
It only remains a question of time to see how the situation will unfold considering that the judiciary has weighed in on the matter and is set to make a ruling on its legality.