Supreme leader Raila Odinga moments ago arrived at Orange house where he is expected to chair an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) PG meeting on the contentious issue that has drawn resistance from MPs who want the 8% VAT on petroleum products proposed by Uhuru suspended for two years or scrapped altogether.
House miniority leader Hon John Mbadi and his senate counterpart James Orengo have opposed the additional taxes.
Uhuru rejected plans to suspend the initial 16% VAT as was in the budgetary estimates approved by Parliament and instead proposed a reduced rate of eight per cent as he sought money to fund his affordable housing project, which is part of his Big Four development agenda.
Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi, have backed the President’s recommendations.
Senate minority leaders Hon James Orengo pleaded with MPs to reject proposals by the head of State. He said the National Assembly should not agree to be an appendage of the Executive.
Senator Orengo noted that the country was hurting from the ever-increasing cost of living. “I appeal to members of the National Assembly to reject the reservations by President in regard to the Finance Bill 2018. If we follow this direction we are going to support extravagant spending of Jubilee government. This is the time for Parliament to show it is a representative of the people,” the senator said.
The campaign against the new taxes gathered pace yesterday as MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Rashid Amin (Wajir East), Tindi Mwale (Butere) and Johnson Naicca (Mumias West) declared they would not support Uhuru’s proposals. Speaking at Parliament, they said the memorandum, which recommends eight per cent VAT would burden Kenyans more. “We will stand with the common mwananchi on this matter. We will not allow poor Kenyans to pay more taxes. We will shoot down the proposal and no amount of intimidation will make us change our minds,” said Mr Barasa. “The economy should be improved first before we think of increasing taxes. I am ready to defy the position taken by the Jubilee leadership on this matter for the sake of the people I represent,” he said.
Mr Amin said: “We will not accept any proposal to increase VAT. We will overturn the proposal because we have the numbers.” Naicca and Mwale faulted Uhuru for proposing the reduction of funds meant for development kitties such as the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) as well as money allocated to counties. “When you suggest Sh5 billion should be cut from CDF that means construction of schools and other infrastructure in the constituencies will stall. The President’s memorandum is not good for Kenyans,” said Naicca.
Hon Mwale said: “We will not accept the plan to reduce funds meant for institutions that help the poor. The President should instead reduce the budget for his office or the ministries.” Nyando MP Jared Okello said no amount of intimidation would dissuade the MPs from siding with Kenyans.
And Aldai MP Cornelius Serem said they would attend the State House meeting for a “win-win engagement”. “We hope the President will also listen to our concerns. We will tell him our position because we want fuel to be zero-taxed,” he said.