Nairobi – A deepening chasm over the Finance Bill of 2023 threatens to fracture President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, according to several of its parliamentary members. The bill, slated for review by the National Assembly’s Finance and Planning Committee, has ignited controversy over its numerous contentious proposals.
The Committee, under the stewardship of Molo MP Kimani Kuria, assured the public of forthcoming amendments to the divisive bill while requesting patience as they prepare to present their report in Parliament. The Budget Statement, to be presented by the Treasury and National Planning Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u in the National Assembly, will follow two days after.
Over a thousand submissions have been received by the committee, most of which express dissatisfaction with certain provisions in the bill. The contentious clauses include a proposal to deduct up to Sh2,500 from both employers and employees in the formal sector for the Housing Fund. A move to increase the VAT on petrol from 8% to 16% and impose a tax on insurance compensation has also incited public outcry.
Parliament is set to learn if these controversial sections will be amended or expunged before the Budget Statement’s presentation. Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetang’ula, has promised that MPs will be allowed to vote on the Finance Bill clause by clause, providing the opportunity to reject disputed parts and endorse the rest.
However, there is brewing rebellion within the Kenya Kwanza Alliance as some MPs have declared their intent to unite with the Minority to vote against the bill. These dissenting voices have been critical of the proposed measures, asserting that they are not in favor of the populace.
The bill has not only stirred unease among legislators but also elicited a strong response from constituents. Voters from the Kitutu Masaba Constituency have boldly challenged their MP, Clive Gisairo, threatening repercussions on his political future if he votes in favor of the controversial bill. They argue that his support would undermine their wishes and betray the mandate they entrusted him with.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Azimio-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga, who vowed to rally Minority legislators to reject the bill unless it’s withdrawn entirely. Odinga accused the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance of manipulating legislators to back the bill, thereby disadvantaging Kenyans.
The disagreement over the bill has manifested itself in more palpable ways. Several MPs boycotted a homecoming ceremony for Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga after his announcement of opposing the bill. This boycott underscores the internal discord within the ruling coalition, even as President Ruto expressed interest in a transparent voting process on the bill.
Despite these challenges, there is hope for dialogue and resolution. Calls for a measured debate and the possibility of amending contentious clauses were made by Speaker Wetang’ula. Likewise, Parliamentary Budget Committee chairman, Ndindi Nyoro, stated that the bill was still subject to amendments and that President Ruto was actively engaging with leaders about the bill.
As the boundaries between Majority and Minority become more apparent, it remains to be seen whether the bill will withstand the forthcoming Budget statement. Although some MPs have expressed support for the bill, the count is dwarfed by those who have publicly committed to voting against it and those yet to decide.
Should the bill be voted down, it would mark a historic first in Kenya – the defeat of a Finance Bill. However, this would result in a spending freeze by the government, including payment of salaries, unless a resolution is reached to navigate the resulting impasse.