House divided on Uhuru fuel VAT proposal

Anthony Mwangi, Mercy Mwai and Githinji Mwangi @PeopleDailyKe

Battle lines are drawn as legislators consider a memorandum in which President Uhuru Kenyatta had expressed reservations on the Finance Bill, which MPs had passed an amendment suspending a 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products.

And today, the MPs find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they are called upon to back recommendations in the memorandum to ease pressure on Treasury, unlock impediments and allow fiscal decisions to move the country forward even as a number of them insist they will oppose. 

The lawmakers had, in the Finance Bill, passed an amendment suspending the  levy on petroleum products for a further two years.

But Uhuru returned the Bill to Parliament with a proposal to cut the fuel tax by half to eight 8 per cent.

Despite reports of discord and revolt among Jubilee legislators, the leader of majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale, was yesterday confident the motion containing the presidential memorandum on the Finance Bill will sail through without much resistance.

Duale told People Daily despite rumours of discontent within Jubilee Party members, the position is that the memorandum on the Finance Bill seeking to cut the fuel levy by half  should be supported.

Duale added that the Supplementary Budget proposed by President Uhuru which seeks to highlight austerity measures which the National Treasury is due to introduce to raise funds to support the Budget will also be passed.

“We are in agreement with the presidential memorandum. We need to support the budget and at the same time address the needs of our people,” Duale said.

Jubilee MPs are this morning scheduled  for a meeting with President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto where they will lobbied to back the memorandum, while the Opposition team will meet at the County Hall to chart the forward.

House Minority Leader John Mbadi  and his Senate counterpart James Orengo (Siaya) were emphatic that the Opposition will reject the motion in totality.

“We don’t need any VAT on petroleum products. Whether it is eight per cent it is not good because it still has a spiral effect to the economy,” Mbadi told People Daily, adding; “We have a meeting on Tuesday (today) where we may take a position against the proposals by the President.”

Mbadi said he did not expect a partisan approach to the debate on the motion, adding that a majority of Jubilee MPs have indicated they would oppose the proposals even as claims swirled of a section of MPs who have allegedly prepared a list to monitor the voting of members. “We are still insisting on zero VAT on petroleum products,” Mbadi declared.

If Parliament rejects the Bill, it will become law and the VAT tax will remain suspended for two years.  MPs from both from Jubilee and Opposition and who are opposed to the memorandum had planned to skip the two special sittings on grounds that their vote will not change anything as already, the President is guaranteed of support.

According to some of the MPs who did not want to be named, there is no need of wasting their time participating in the debate on the memorandum  whose outcome is known.

Apart from the two sittings, it was also understood some of the MPs had quietly made a decision not to attend the Parliamentary Group meeting called by both parties today   on grounds that the conveners want to push them to vote for something they do not support.

A number of Jubilee MPs who did not want to be quoted said that while they support the president and his agenda for the country, they are not comfortable with the proposal to have tax imposed on petroleum products

Said one of the MPs, who did want to be named: “As a Jubilee MP, I am a bit hesitant to support this memorandum. Yes, I know that the President means well for this country but it is Kenyans who voted for us and we must work for them.”

During today’s session, it is expected that National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi will communicate the President’s memorandum to the House while Duale will table the supplementary estimates from the National Treasury.

On Wednesday, the Budget and Appropriations committee will then meet   Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich to explain to them the budget cuts in some sectors to pave way for the committee chairperson Kimani Ichung’wa to table the committee’s report on Thursday morning on the way forward regarding the estimates.

  Orengo told MPs to reject Uhuru’s memorandum on grounds that it will not only affect ordinary Kenyans but also manufacturers even as he threatened to go to court to challenge the matter should it become law.

He claimed that President Uhuru did not reduce the tax by 50 percent but increased it   by eight percent as MPs had already zero-rated it.

“Finally, the buck will stop with Parliament and not the President. I appeal to the National Assembly to reject the reservations by the president in total. I want to remind ourselves that Parliament does not represent the Executive and neither is it an extension of the Executive,”  he said.

Orengo, who spoke in his office, claimed that Uhuru is pushing Kenyans into a new era of tax and spend and thus allowing this to pass will make Kenyan suffer more.

MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Rashid Amin (Wajir East), Tindi Mwale (Butere), Johnson Naicca  (Mumias West), Mark Nyamita (Uriri) and Caleb Amisi( Saboti) separately said they do not support the President’s proposals.

Addressing a news conference at Parliament buildings, the MPs argued that the memorandum if passed, will be an extra burden to Kenyans.

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