The 2021-22 budget read on Thursday has not eased economic pressure on the poor, with the policy majorly serving the rich, further widening the inequality gap.
Antonia Musunga, the national coordinator of Kenya Fight Inequality Alliance, said the National Treasury maintained VAT measures for most household needs, effectively meaning prices will remain high.
“Kenyans were expecting the exchequer to ease tax regime touching on basic household needs like food and fuel, which have become too way pricey for Wanjiku who is reeling from Covid-19 economic pressure,” Musunga said.
She added that the level of inequality has spiralled during the Covid-19 crisis, hence the Treasury should have made structural changes to the economy to ensure the ‘recovery’ from the pandemic does not worsen inequality in Kenya.
The views were echoed by other civil society groups that said the budget will increase the tax burden on the common mwananchi, instead of going for the rich and multinationals who deny the country the much-needed revenue through illicit financial flows.
Stop Crime Kenya (StoCK) said drastic tax increases announced in the budget are forcing already hard-hit citizens to pay for the government’s failure to combat illicit trade.
StoCK chairman Stephen Mutoro said the cost of living is rising for Kenyans at a time when most can least afford it, adding that the budget did not do enough to enhance the war on the growing illicit trade.
“Households will have to pay more for essential goods, including bread, baby milk and cooking oil, yet the exchequer continues to lose more than Sh150 billion in taxes annually as a direct result of illicit trade,” Mutoro said.
He added that the government should make a concerted stand against illicit trade by plugging the country’s porous borders and enforcing trading laws.
“That’s the best and fairest way to get money to build a better Kenya for all,” he said.
Eric Mwangi, a trader in Westlands, Nairobi, told the Star he never understood how the budget serves the common mwananchi.
“I wish the government can consider us, the common people, when preparing this long budgets; we just hear of huge sums of money that never reach us,” Mwangi said.