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The New VAT ACT 2013, a Burden to the Kenyan Poor

On 6th August this year, the National Assembly of the Kenya government unanimously approved the controversial Value Added Tax bill which saw amendments that reinstated taxes on basic food items and necessities that have always been zero rated and exempt.

The poor Kenyan can barely afford precious commodities like milk, whose price has risen by KShs.15 per litre. This means that many children will go without the precious nourishment. One is left to wonder why the price should be this high, bearing in mind that it is a basic commodity. Did President Uhuru Kenyatta have to assent to this controversial Bill that imposed tax on dairy products?

Hardest hit are school going children, whose parents have to dig much deeper into their pockets in order to buy them exercise and text books, which have also attracted a 16% VAT. It is sad how much higher the rate of school drop outs is going to be soon.
Electricity and mobile phones will go back to being a preserve of the rich as they haven’t been spared tax-wise either. It irks to know that these are goods that have always been exempted from tax, zero rated.
Not forgotten are farm chemicals and fertilizers, whose 16% tax slap translates to an upcoming shortage of food, thus starvation lurking in the near horizon for subsistence farmers. Cash crop farmers will also feel the pinch since theirs is the same piece of land whose cost of production and input is going to grow higher than the proceeds from therein. This further translates to a hungry nation, as it is not likely that enough food will be produced to sustain the country, whose population keeps rising fast.
The Information and Communication Technology, (ICT) sector has also been hard hit, what with hardware and software for computers attracting a 16% VAT too. This means that taking computer lessons, which has in the recent past been very affordable is going to be a herculean task for the youth who have traditionally ventured into the same to take certificate courses before joining the job hunting populace.
Last July, Ipsos Synovate, a research organization, carried out a study that revealed that out of every 10 people interviewed, 9 were against the tax slap on basic consumables like milk, exercise and text books and electricity, which they predicted would raise the cost of living to an all time high.
Even so, Henry Rotich, the Cabinet Secretary at Treasury justifies that this is aimed at the government’s need to raise an annual turnover of KShs. 10 Billion from the new law.
It goes without saying that the poorer will sink into greater depths of poverty, even as the rich rise to astronomical heights of riches, all at the expense of the tax payer, in this case, the poor common Kenyan. Meanwhile, the politicians of the day continue pitting the people against each other, tribally, who in turn go on a killing spree, with neighbor rising against neighbor. It seems like the lessons learnt during and after the 2007/8 Post Election Violence that left thousands of innocent Kenyans dead and hundreds of thousands more still internally displaced have already been forgotten. It doesn’t matter that they both face the same hurdles at the grass roots, never mind that the politician couldn’t care less if they died or survived. Their children starve and thirst for an education, dropping out of unaffordable schools, even as the politicians’ own study abroad.

According to the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), Kenya’s economy is fragile and must be cushioned against external incursions by cheap imports from the more developed economies, which is where we are headed. Our taxation policies must be structured to offer that support, a vital step in reforming the tax system for efficiency and effectiveness. It heralds a big component in growing tomorrow’s economy for Kenya. In order to move forward, consideration should be given to amending the Bill to take into account the weighty concerns raised.

Economical justice is necessary, and thereby priorities be revised sanely, for peace to prevail because there can be no peace without justice.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Y's picture

Only the parents care about

Only the parents care about their progeny, and sometimes not even they. Until we women refuse to bear any child that we cannot individually cherish and support, nothing will change.

Stop women's wombs from being tombs for the growth of non-sacred seed!

Y

The way it comes out of your pen, into my brain is so clear. I agree with you. We need to start civic education to enlighten grassroots women on the need to only concieve children they commit to raise responsibly.
The very best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Mukut's picture

16% tax on exercise books

This is too much- 16% VAT on text and exercise books !!! I also agree with Y, we should take the pledge of conceiving children only when we commit to raise them responsibly.

You have written an important and informative piece ! Well done Phy.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Phionah Musumba's picture

True

I totally agree with you Mukut, especially so since I am directly affected, being in the education sector.
Thank you so much.
Wishing you the very best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Y's picture

I have been having

I have been having discussions about responsible sexuality since I became sixteen years old and my future mother-in-law (a registered nurse) sent me to a gynecologist to put me on birth control pills. She knew that I planned to marry her adult, employed son as soon as I graduated from high school, and she wanted to make sure that my graduation took place before I became pregnant. Sadly, she died before we produced her first grandchild, but I am eternally grateful for her wise action.

In my religious school and family upbringing, the only thing we were told repeatedly is that sex without marriage was a sin. There was no attention paid to the fact that marriage is not a magic spell that produces resources for childcare. In many marriages, the spouses are simply encouraged to remain children as they produce more children. This may have worked well in farm families who saw their children as extra field hands and household help, but it is past time that we rethink the purposes of human sexuality.

We have been taught that our own immortality is based on procreation, and with high mother and child mortality, we are afraid of not passing on our own genetics. We aren’t taught to stop and think about the welfare of our children, even when we know that our genetics may be passing on deadly and debilitating diseases. We also aren’t taught to pay attention to the types of parenting partnerships we are forming. Two people without the resources to take care of themselves don’t magically become productive in human society because they have produced offspring.

The animal instinct to reproduce is built into us, but we are taught that humans can channel and control our animal instincts. In our technological societies, there is less need for human manual labor, but we continue to produce children who will be disrespected as slaves or sent into battle to win territory and other resources for the most vicious animals in human forms. Better maternal and infant healthcare has made it possible to hope that all of one’s offspring will survive into adulthood, so there is less need to fear loss of our children.

There is less manual labor to do and more people than are necessary to do it. Whenever there is a surplus of anything, including humans, the value of each “unit” goes down. Why do we continue allowing despotic leaders to convince us that the only value for a virtuous woman is in accepting their seed and those of their minions and ministering to them and their progeny? Our brains, not only our bodies, are meant to be fruitful, share, and multiply our sacred energy, with or without union with a man.
I know that our fertile bodies cry out for procreation, but there is a difference between motherhood in an animal sense and human nurture. What other animal takes over 18 years to train their offspring for their individual survival? This is a commitment that takes, not only a mother, but also responsible, committed parenting partners within a greater committed community.

How is it that we don’t see unwanted, unplanned children as the victims in our irresponsible procreative habits? There are ways to stop this desecration of full humanity with the advent of better and more effective, temporary forms of conception control. Several of these methods are now virtually undetectable, in that they are injected. Some of them prevent pregnancy for several years at a time. Some are even effective after unplanned sex and simply prevent the fertilization of the egg to occur.

Rape is simply another way to dis-empower a female. The rape does not have to destroy a woman, but the results will always be permanent if the girl or woman is impregnated. In areas where rape is endemic, implants could be used to protect the girls and women until they are ready to support themselves and make their own informed choices. At the very least, morning after pills should be freely distributed to the girls and women in the areas.

I am not advocating that we women stop having sex in our responsible, committed relationships. I believe that responsible, compassionate sexuality is an avenue to peace between people and an avenue for couples to increase their sacred energy to a point that they simply must share this energy with others.

I am imploring all women, for the sake of responsible compassion for all innocent children, all over the earth, to empower ourselves with ways to support ourselves and realize our full human potential, other than as wombs and nursemaids, before we bring babies into the world to become slaves and soldiers for those who despise them.
Toni Morrison wrote a powerful book, Beloved, about the dilemma a slave mother faced upon learning she was pregnant and the terrible decision she made to “protect” her child. I weep simply thinking about her solution, but I understand, as a mother, why she chose to take her own child’s life rather than be forced to bear witness to her child being treated as less than a fully human being. We now have better solutions in the form of conception control.

We will not use our wombs to fill more tombs.

Y

Phionah Musumba's picture

The C word

I am for everything you propose. You are such a wealth in knowledge, the ladies in your family must be very lucky to have you in their lives. I really wish I had someone like you in my corner while growing up, mine would have been a contented life. I always reflect on every comment you write on my post and am left wistfully wishing: what I wouldn't give to have had a mother, aunt or grandmother like you!
I am taking quite a lot of your teachings to the next level at the Centre, imparting the knowledge I get here to the teens and women in my charge. You are doing a lot for us.
Thank you so much for being a great and resourceful teacher.

Wishing you the very best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Y's picture

Dear Phy, I am teary-eyed

Dear Phy,
I am teary-eyed reading your message. Thank you for your affirming words.

I wanted to be a teacher ever since the sixth grade when I fell "in love" with my chorus teacher, a Sister of St. Joseph. I determined to be a nun, just like her, but had to change my mind when things that my older brother and cousin had done made me question my virginity. I was sure that a girl who had been "touched" couldn't become a "bride of Christ."

I decided that I could become a teacher, as my mother's mother had been. I thought she would be overjoyed when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher "Just like her". She recoiled and said, "Don't make me laugh! You! A teacher! I'd feel sorry for those children. Ha! You teaching, with your sense of values!"

I was encouraged to marry and become a mother by this same woman. Was she not aware that this would make me a teacher? I certainly didn't expect this position to be a teaching position; I assumed I would simply be the "big sister" tattle-tale as my mother-in-law ruled my roost. She died while I was pregnant for my first child. I became a mother/ teacher by default. (Coincidentally, I wanted the father of my children to agree to for us become parents at an orphan home. He found this laughable.)

I wish that I could say that my children celebrate my wisdom, but they, like their father, scorn me. They protect their children from my words and influence in solidarity with their father's family. Still, I know that I did well in my work as their caretaker. They are compassionate to all but me and are productive citizens and parents to their own and many other children in their communities.

I have taught many adults many things as a manager of businesses. I hurt for my children and their children, but I can't keep inside of me what they don't want to hear. There are reasons for rules of relationship in any civil society; I seek to separate the religion and rituals from the reasons and teach these principles. Thank you for opening up a new "family" to me.
Much love,
Yvette

Y

Phionah Musumba's picture

Aww!

Dearest Yvette,
I really enjoyed this write up, was so smiling all through, until I got to the last paragraphs. It breaks my heart that someone so warm and full of love like you could suffer your fate. One thing is for sure; your family doesn't know what they are missing. So wishing I were in their proximity to drill it into their heads.
We would be so glad if you agreed to be our adoptive mother, sister, friend and grandmother at the Centre.
Ours is one huuuuuuge happy family, where we welcome you warmly.
I love you sweetheart,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Y's picture

My grandchildren call me

My grandchildren call me "Granny." I would love to watch "your" children succeed at realizing their most sacred selves in channeling their unique energies toward creating a heaven on earth. Our children are our change agents, but we must keep them safe and well-guided while they become strong enough to lead.
Love,
Yvette

Y

Phionah Musumba's picture

Yes they will!

I believe there's something special in all of us, which is always evident and manifests itself in the right atmosphere and favourable conditions.
My kids are gonna do it!

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Tash's picture

the cycle always continues!

the cycle always continues! And the poor get the pinch the Most! Good work Phy! quite an informative post! I hope this bill gets amended for the sake of the poor.i know for a fact milk is a luxury to most Africans which is sad really. This is also a call to the poor to work harder than ever, to get involved more in agriculture and beat these odds for the sake of their children, i do not like the idea that poor people get comfortable on handouts they always wanna have it easy and therefore stay in the same place year in year out. Governments ought to equip the poor with tools, practical and entrepreneurship skills to help them survive and keep the involved in building of the economy.The movement to end extreme poverty is always led by people in poverty themselves.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

I couldn't have said it better! I agree with you that we have to take individual responsibility to address the poverty in our communities. That is why at the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, we equip women with skills for economic sustenance and development.
All the best, Patsy,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Victoria Gonin's picture

Your story

Kenya is lucky to have you and the fact that you are spreading the message. Keep focused on what you envision, and surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you and all that you are doing.

All the best,

Victoria

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Allow me to thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart for such a powerfully encouraghing and inspiring message.
The very best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Leigh Anne Kranz's picture

Economical Justice

Dear Phionah,

You have done a great job of illustrating how this new tax will cripple Kenya at its roots--its children, homes, schools, farms. The tax is meant to solve a national problem, but it leaches money from basic needs--milk/dairy, books, electricity, food cultivation--and in the long term, fewer Kenyans will be healthy, educated, and trained in the technologies that give them access and a voice in global affairs. This solution is not only flawed, it is catastrophic for the future of Kenya.

Thank you for breaking it down so clearly, for speaking out in a timely way, and for offering ideas for effective, yet equitable solutions. I love your use of the word, "sanely". Such a strong ending.

Please keep speaking out and writing! It was a pleasure to read your piece and I learned a lot.

Leigh Anne Kranz

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Allow me to commend you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I am hoping that the government of the day will rethink about its misplaced priorities...soner rather than later.
All the best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

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