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Kenyans Voice Outrage Over Finance Bill Despite Concessions

On Tuesday, Kenyans took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the government following the removal of several unpopular levies proposed under the contentious 2024 Finance Bill.

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The National Assembly Finance Committee chairperson, Kuria Kimani, announced at a press conference that, due to public pressure, the government had decided to scrap plans to impose a 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on bread, financial services, and foreign exchange transactions.

Additionally, the contentious motor vehicle tax was eliminated, as well as the excise duty on vegetable oil. Locally-made goods were exempted from the proposed Eco Levy, and the excise duty on eggs, onions, and potatoes was scrapped for local produce, now only applying to imported products.

Police arrest Protesters during #Rejectfinancebill demonstration

Despite these concessions, many Kenyans remain unsatisfied. Controversial elements of the bill, such as the amendment to the Data Protection Act that would grant the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) unrestrained access to taxpayers’ personal data, are still included. This aspect has particularly drawn criticism, with citizens calling for the entire bill to be discarded.

“VAT on cancer treatment still remains, Land rates taxes still remain. Data Privacy is still a big question. The Bill should be rejected in its entirety,” tweeted user @Godwin_Murithi.

Others suggested that the changes were merely superficial efforts by the government to placate the public. “Let’s not be hoodwinked. It’s not over till it’s over,” commented @Douglasorangi.

The government announced the changes amidst growing public unrest. Demonstrations were beginning at Nairobi’s city center, as protesters aimed to pressure lawmakers against passing the bill ahead of its tabling before the House later in the afternoon.

The protests, dubbed ‘Occupy Parliament,’ saw police arresting demonstrators and using tear gas to disperse the crowds who marched through Nairobi’s central business district with placards urging President William Ruto’s government to abandon its tax proposals.

One of the conveners, Boniface Mwangi said Monday that President William Ruto has to listen to Kenyans, who are the tax payers and have a big say on what affects them.

“On Tuesday, we will come to occupy Parliament and ensure that the MPs listen to what Kenyans want. This is our country; it belongs to all of us so the sovereign power belongs to the people,” said Mwangi.

Members of Parliament are scheduled to debate the bill on Wednesday and Thursday, amid heightened public scrutiny and ongoing demonstrations.

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