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‘Pump pain’ to continue as Uhuru rejects Finance Bill

There is no reprieve for tax-burdened Kenyans after President Uhuru Kenyatta last evening rejected the Finance Bill, 2018, which would have suspended the recently introduced 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products.

That means Kenyans will continue to pay the 16 per cent fuel tax.Uhuru sent the bill back to Parliament with reservations and two-thirds of MPs will be required to overturn the presidential memo.

The President returned the bill hours after National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi had forwarded it to his office, 12 days after Parliament passed it.

The amendment to the bill seeking to suspend the imposition of the fuel levy was moved by Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and unanimously passed by members.

And last evening Muturi called for a special sitting of the National Assembly next Tuesday to discuss the presidential memo.

The gazette notice states that the bill will be reconsidered by Parliament with the reservations of the President and in line with Article 115 (2), (3) and (5) of the Constitution and the report of the relevant committee.

“Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 29(3) of the Standing Orders of the Members of the National Assembly, it is notified that special sittings of the Assembly shall be held in the National Assembly Chamber in the Main Parliament Buildings, on Tuesday, September 18 and on Thursday, September 20,” states the document that was quickly circulated on social media.

The Tuesday sitting will take place at 2.30pm while the Thursday sittings will take place at 9.30am and 2.30pm.

The new development finds MPs in a catch-22 situation, as they will have to balance between party loyalty and the interests of the electorate.

MPs from both sides of the divide have publicly declared their position on the new levy and Kenyans will be watching to see the stand they will take come Tuesday.  Opposition leader Raila Odinga had earlier promised the public that Uhuru would assent to the bill.

It is likely Uhuru, in consideration of the repercussions the new law has might propose budgetary cuts to fill the gap should the new tax be delayed further.

This was confirmed by the fact that in the gazette notice, Muturi has indicated that a motion on a supplementary budget will be part of business during the special sitting.

Earlier yesterday, MPs had accused Muturi of taking too long to hand the bill to the President. But in the afternoon, State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena tweeted confirming the President had received the bill.

If Parliament amends the bill by fully accommodating the President’s reservations, the Speaker shall re-submit it to him for assent.

Meanwhile, Dena said the President will address the nation today following consultations on the VAT. “President @UKenyatta is set to address the Nation tomorrow (Friday) following consultations on the VAT matter with the leadership of the National Assembly.”

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