Taxes! Taxes! Taxes! This is the new language of President William Ruto and the National Treasury.
In efforts to widen the tax base, the government is targeting all sectors and every Kenyan with a national identity card (ID) so asto gradually wean the country off excessive borrowing to cover the deficit in the Budget.
This, the President argues, will ensure the country lives within its means and reduces its debt burden.
In reaction to proposed tax increases, Kenyans have nicknamed ther President “Zakayo mtoza ushuru (Zacheus the tax collector)”, a biblical character who was infamous for exploiting Jews before he met Jesus and changed his ways.
According to critics, the obsession with raising more money from citizens is punitive and premature.
Instead, they say the government should first address immediate problems such as unemployment to add more people to the pool of taxpayers.
At least 10 million Kenyans ready to be absorbed in the job market are unemployed, with the crisis expected to worsen as companies reduce workers to navigate the tricky economy and others freeze recruitment.
The depreciation of the Kenyan shilling is also worrying people in business, especially those who import goods. Today, the shilling is trading at Ksh130 against the US dollar.
If they adjust the prices upwards, customers will run away, hence reducing sales.
The high cost of living is another monster. Many people have been forced to squeeze their finances to afford food, with some living off a meal a day.
“It gets nauseating at times to hear someone who barely affords unga defending Ruto and his high taxes,” Grace Munyaka said on Facebook.
The removal of subsidies that cushioned Kenyans from harsh economic times during the last days of retired President Uhuru Kenyatta has been felt across the country. Ruto believes the subsidies were a burden since the country was borrowing to sustain them.
His supporters, however, think that Ruto is only laying the foundation for a stable economy and the current situation is just a temporally discomfort.