In the wake of a staggering budget statement coupled with the recently passed contentious Finance Bill 2023, a wide conglomeration of civil society organizations have launched a mass initiative on accountability in Kenya’s public spending and public debt management.
In the campaign dubbed ‘Okoa Uchumi’, the coalition seeks to push for political accountability, and bolster constitutional safeguards in public debt management, for debt sustainability through a balanced and equitable budget.
The town hall session today initiated by The Institute of Social Accountability (TISA), is spurred by a deep concern about the state of the Kenyan economy on account of imprudent management of public debt and the individual corrupt interests that have fueled the acquisition of costly and imprudent debt, driving Kenya into a debt crisis and deepening poverty and inequality.
In the session held in Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum, members of the Okoa Uchumi Coalition joined citizens in giving their views on the Budget Policy Statement and Finance Bill 2023, in response to the call for public participation and submission of memoranda.
The Coalition reviewed the proposed tax amendments and did a joint submission of their proposals giving alternative recommendations backed by reliable figures that have been simulated from reliable models and sources.
The campaign had also made oral submissions to the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning of the National Assembly, and urged Members of Parliament to support their course once the bill is tabled in Parliament for debate.
The campaign presented justification as to why it was opposing tax increments, introduction of new taxes and proposing the reduction or banding of proposed taxes. There was also a clear demonstration that the policy alternatives being proposed by the campaign were viable and attainable in the short run to provide the needed revenues to finance public services by the government.
“We urge Parliament to reject proposals that sought to overtax the employed population and informal sectors, and instead, focus on enforcing accountability measures of the current tax regulations, including compliance measures needed to avoid loss of revenue.” An official from TISA told the gathering at Marianist St Mary’s Catholic Church.
“Kenya is currently in an economic crisis and the government, through the National Treasury, has put together an expansionary national budget for the 2023/2024 financial year totaling Sh3.6 trillion with a projected deficit of Sh768 billion. The Finance Bill 2023 risks bleeding Kenyans dry through the injurious taxation measures that it has adopted.”
The purpose of the town hall is to create a platform for a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the recent developments around the Finance Bill 2023, the FY 2023/24 budget, and the public participation process, session organizers told the media.
Individual participants drawn from different social justice centres attending the session told the media that they were aggrieved by Government’s introduction of punitive taxes touching on their livelihoods yet they had issued rosy promises during their campaigns, saying they have reneged on them.
They vowed to stage a spirited opposition to budget proposals and the finance bill around the country, adding that they will be forced to call for the resignation of the Kenya Kwanza Government if it will not listen to the ‘hustlers.’