Azimio leader Raila Odinga has vowed to mobilise street demonstrations from July 7 to protest the Finance Bill assented to by President William Ruto.
By signing the Bill, Raila said the president ignored pleas by Kenyans not to inflict more pain on the cost of living.
“Now you know that the only language Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza understands is street protests and boycotts,” he said at Kamukunji Wednesday on arrival from an overseas trip.
Odinga told a rally in Kamukunji that the Kenya Kwanza government had betrayed Kenyans hence the need to boycott.“We are the people,” Odinga said, “and the people are supreme.”
He said the Bill signed by President Ruto will push the cost of living up and make life difficult for Kenyans.“And that is why we are saying that Ruto must be made to listen to the people and the only way is to resist,” he said signaling the resumption of mass protests.
He said, “protests and boycotts is the only language Ruto will understand because he declined to listen to the voice of the people.”
President Ruto signed into law a bill that raises taxes on a wide range of items defying criticism that it will pile more economic hardship on citizens.
The new tax package was approved by parliament last week and will double tax on fuel to 16 percent and introduce a new housing levy, a move expected to have a ripple effect in a country hamstrung by high inflation.
Ruto, who took office in September after a bitterly fought election, is seeking to fill the government’s depleted coffers and repair a heavily-indebted economy inherited from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, who splurged on major infrastructure projects.
Kenya is now sitting on a public debt mountain of almost $70 billion or about 67 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and repayment costs have jumped as the shilling sinks to record lows of around 140 to the dollar.
The new law — expected to generate more than $2.1 billion — will hike taxes on basic goods and services including food and mobile money transfers.
The contentious bill stipulates for a 1.5 percent levy on the salaries of all tax-
paying Kenyans that will be matched by employers to fund an affordable housing programme.
People who earn 500,000 shillings ($3,600) a month will now pay 32.5 percent in income taxes while those making 800,000 shillings ($5,700) will pay 35 percent, up from the current 30 percent.
Sales tax for small businesses has also been tripled to three percent. A new five percent withholding tax for digital content creators has also been introduced.
The bill was approved by the National Assembly despite widespread opposition from Kenyans, civil society and Azimio leaders with the president declaring that it will be passed. He even dared MPs who will fail to support it, branding them “the enemy of the people and progress.”