- Many are debating the merits, and also attempting all manner of calculations to avert an increase in taxes.
The elite are making noises about the increase in taxes. It has become a political statement.
Many are debating the merits, and also attempting all manner of calculations to avert an increase in taxes.
And yet, the real hustlers are confused.
They are totally lost.
While walking in Kibera where I grew up, I was invited into a middle-aged woman’s house for evening porridge.
This Mama had questions.
She started in Luo, “Jatelo what is this tax we hear about?” I responded, “Nyakano what do you think?” Then she added, “if it does not bring food on my table I don’t care. We have suffered enough. There are no jobs, we can’t afford food and 1000 shillings is like a hundred shillings nowadays”.
I looked at her; those words touched me. She continued, “We don’t even see where those taxes go.
They steal all that money. It makes no difference to my life.” I asked, “Who steals all that money?” She argued with the “big people.”
Nyakano cares more about skyrocketing cost of basic commodities and says the government should be focusing on how to make life easy for mwananchi.
For instance, unga is now retailing at Sh220 per 2kgs, up from Sh110 sometime last year, and sugar at Sh140 per kilogram up from Sh100.
Not to mention the cost of cooking oil and paraffin that has doubled in the past year.
My conversation with Nyakano left me thinking deeply about this debate on taxes.
The real hustlers don’t understand where the money goes. To be fair, the poor are taxed heavily.
According to research by Glassdoor, a firm that connects job seekers and potential employers worldwide, an average security guard in Kenya earns Sh15,000, before NSSF and NHIF deductions.
This man is left with about Sh13000 which is hardly enough to cater for his needs.
Then, all the goods a mama mboga buys are taxed at 16% VAT.
The poor are truly crying.
The poor are asking, Your Excellency Mr President, as you campaign on taxes, please can you tell them what they will get in return.
If the status quo remains the same — then you have lost.
If the garbage truck will come to pick up the takataka in our slums then you are on the right path.
If a poor woman from Kibera with a dying baby still cannot access health care then you are doomed to fail.
When our hospitals are not having enough doctors, nurses and medicines — where are the taxes going?
The answer? A huge percentage of our national budget is spent on salaries.
On travel—we had over 100 delegates attend the COP26 climate summit, more delegates than the host country, Egypt.
We have to look ourselves squarely in the eye and ask; can we afford as a country to have such significant reoccurring expenditure?
Can we afford a Parliament, a Senate, Country Governments, Parastatals… the list goes on.
Or, are we mortgaging our children’s tomorrow, not to mention the poor do not see and experience the benefits of this wage bill?
They are crying for basic services --- health care, roads, water, electricity and housing.
The poor are suffering and they have reached the boiling point.
Mr President, change the narrative that money will come back to the communities.
Mama mboga, boda boda riders and the ghetto youth want services in their communities.
By the same token, those who can, must and should pay taxes.
This money still deserves a clear plan for how those taxes are changing our country for the better.
Taxes should be proportionate and those who can afford them must and should pay as a matter of national duty.
If you come up with a clear plan, I will lead the campaign for debt relief for Kenya, for the Kenyans not to tie their belts until it starts hurting the bones.
I promised Nyakano to pass her message to the big people.
Dr. Kennedy Odede, is the founder and CEO of Shofco, a member of USAid Advisory Board, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, multiple humanitarian award winner, including 2022 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, best-selling author. [email protected]