A protester kneeling on the street wearing a shirt with the slogan Ruto is not my president & # 39;  #39;  During the protests across the country

A protester kneeling in the street wearing a shirt saying “Ruto is not my president” during protests across the country.

Kenya has turned violent for a series of protests against rising costs of living and tax hikes; At least 24 people have been killed in recent months.

In last year’s presidential election in the capital, Nairobi, taxi driver James Wainana voted for William Ruto; What the self-styled “nation” has put forward as a candidate – ordinary people struggle to pass.

But now Mr Wainaina feels betrayed and has backed the protests.

After President Ruto came to power, inflation continued and his government increased taxes.

Mr Ruto said the extra revenue was needed to fund debt repayment and job creation projects, but the tax hike made life harder for poor Kenyans.

Mr Wainaina’s daughter, a secondary school student, was recently home for three weeks because she could not pay her 14,000 shillings (100; £75) school fees.

Mr Wainana said business had slowed due to the cost of living crisis.

He loses customers and almost all of his revenue goes to keep the car on the road.

Five years ago, he was able to make up to 4,000 shillings a day to cover his basic needs, including school fees, he said.

Now there are times when he goes home with only 500 shillings after spending, he laments, “not enough to fuel his car the next day”.

“It’s very difficult for us,” he says. The government has not made it easy for small businesses, especially “advocates,” he added.

Mr Wainana said they had been lied to.

“Things don’t seem to be getting better when (the president) is lying to us, oppressing us, things are getting harder, when the price of fuel goes up, the price of everything goes up, even electricity.” Things are getting worse.

Even those who still support the government are expressing “dissatisfaction with the current situation,” according to a recent survey by local polling firm TIFA.

The survey found that 56 percent of Kenyans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, up from 48 percent in March.

The electoral body’s complaint suggests that Azimio’s opposition coalition, which was defeated by Mr Ruto last year, may be backing the opposition called by Raila Odinga.

A Kenyan police officer blocks some workers during a peaceful protest in Nairobi, Kenya on July 12, 2023.

At least 24 people have been killed in recent protests.

Government data shows that in the 12 months to June, the prices of some key food products have increased significantly – with the main ones – maize, cereals and flour – up to 30%, rice and potatoes by 20%, sugar by almost 60%. % more.

However, in the Finance Bill, which became law on July 1, the government increased the value added tax on fuel products from 8 percent to 16 percent, levied a 1.5 percent house tax on workers’ basic pay, and paid an equivalent payment. by the employer.

When it creates jobs, the tax should go to a fund to build houses for the low-income.

In addition, the turnover tax for small businesses has tripled, while the income tax for high-income workers has risen from 30 percent to a maximum of 35 percent.

The government defends the new taxes – now temporarily blocked by a court – as necessary because of the country’s high debt.

He accuses the previous administration of spending huge sums of money on infrastructure that was not useful to ordinary Kenyans and greatly increased the country’s debt burden.

Mr Ruto served as Deputy President in the previous government but stepped down after falling out with then President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He and government officials told Kenyans that paying the tax was a short-term “sacrifice”.

But Mr Wainana was not convinced. Similarly, Edwin Simiu, who rides a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) in Kiambu town near the capital, regrets voting for the current administration.

“(The president) said we should give it a year and then we will see positive changes. Now when he came in, he changed his tune and said we have to wait years before things are fixed. We are in trouble, we have been. We have been completely betrayed, we have been forgotten,” he says.

Charles Caindo is hard at work selling second-hand clothes on the sidewalk in the same town.

The scammer said it was unfortunate that he had broken his promise to the BBC.

There comes a time, he says, when people say “enough is enough” – he explained that hard-working people turn to crime and others “get on with their lives when the suffering is too great”.

A falcon in the city of Kiambu, outside the capital, Nairobi

Charles Caindo says the government has broken its promises.

But not everyone thinks that high taxes are a bad thing.

Jane Nejeri, a private sector accountant, says she is not jealous of the government – Kenya needs the money to pay off its huge debt.

In recent months, the Kenyan shilling has weakened against the US dollar, pushing up debt service costs.

“This is not going to go away overnight. We are in a bad place, we are running down shillings, debt and unemployment,” she said.

The upheaval in Kenya is due to a “sense of contradiction” between the “hustler narrative” of understating the cost of living, which he peddled during the campaign, and “the reality that we are seeing tax increases on everyday items,” Ken Gichinga said. Chief Economist at Mentoria Economics, a business consulting firm

He also pointed out that the government should do more to accelerate the growth of the private sector instead of focusing on consumption taxes that increase the cost of living.

He argued that government housing projects would be funded by the new tax, which would not solve the housing and unemployment problems.

“Lower interest rates, lower taxes and deregulation. Do all three and the whole economy can create jobs. Let the free market work.”

However, economic analyst Odhiambo Ramogi says he is convinced the president’s intentions are noble – even if his methods are “wrong”.

He says the government must first reduce waste before asking ordinary Kenyans to pay more.

The government has accepted this point – Chief Economic Adviser David Ndy admitted on Twitter that the government is “wasteful”.

Parliament’s budget committee chairman, Ndindi Nyoro, told the BBC that the government’s tax plan was designed to prevent the government from digging a bigger debt hole by borrowing more. The focus, he said, is to ensure that it is balanced to ensure that “Kenyans are involved in the baking of the national cake”.

But a growing number of Kenyans don’t think this will work and are taking to the streets to express their views.

By W_Manga

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