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kenya’s high cost of living through the eyes of the youth

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It is now a month since the controversial Finance Bill 2021 took effect, this after President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the bill hence effectively allowing the Kenya Revenue Authority KRA to collect more on the basic commodities relied on by millions of Kenyans.

The bill which was opposed by majority of Kenyans for example has contributed to the rise of LPG gas price, a 6kg gas skyrocketing from 1000 shillings to 1350 shillings this is after a 16% of Value Added Tax.

For individuals selling LPG gases they also complain of reduced purchasing power with customers now taking the commodity on credit.

“ Lazima watu wazoee tu hatuwezi kosa kutake hii decision manze, sisi kama wauzaji tunasuffer, so inabidi tuwekee consumer burden kidogo ndio tupate profit.blame tu gava sio sisi manze.”We are facing a difficult situation, the move by the government to impose the tax is what has necessitated us to double the gas prices or else we will be counting losses, we are not to blame, blame the government instead” Ken Wambugu a gas dealer in Umoja says.

“We are currently selling a 6kg gas at 1350 shillings up from 1000 shillings; 12kg gas costs 2400 shillings up from 2000 shillings.”Wambugu reveals.

Having an increase of VAT on LPG Gases is counterproductive to the Ministry of Energy’s goal on having a wider use of LPG gases among Kenyans” Churchill Ogutu analyst GENGHIS capital was quoted.

A spot check on a number of shops in Nairobi has also revealed a sharp increase in cooking oil prices in the country.

“500ml of Rina cooking oil is currently retailing at 160 shillings up from 130 shillings, Pika cooking oil is retailing at 150 shillings up from 120 shillings, . “Tumeongeza doo coz serikali imetufinya. “A rise in the price of cooking oil is due to the government’s decision to tax cooking oil” Ras Kamau a shopkeeper in Ngara says.

If the government doesn’t take necessary steps to avert this then we heading in the wrong direction as a country, and it’s our clients who will suffer at the end” he adds.

Mobile phone airtime and data was also targeted, an increase in excise duty on them from 15% to 20% will now help Treasury to raise approximately 8 billion shillings from Safaricom, Airtel and Telcom Kenya respectively.

Internet providers like Wananchi owned Zuku increased the cost of services to factor in the taxes.

 “Dear customer, in line with government directive on increase in excise duty from 15% to 20% effective 1st July 2021, Zuku fiber has adjusted your package price with effect from 8th July 2021.your new package price is ksh 1599 effective 1st August 2021.Thank you for your continued patronage” read a message sent to a Zuku customer on 7th of July 2021.

But how are the youth coping with these drastic changes?

“I am a third year Mass Communication student at Mt Kenya university , we as students are going through a lot of challenges in matters internet, we can no longer afford it because of the increasing price of the internet due to the government’s decision to tax the internet providers. “One Catherine Atiano said.

Currently, Kenyans are spending more time online, Universities now embracing online learning since covid19 ravaged the country. This is now a sure revenue earner for the government as it is struggling to find a way of paying for the 3.6 trillion shillings budget that was passed in June.

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The increase in the cost of internet has come as an increased burden to many Kenyans and especially the youth who are reeling from the negative economic effects of covid19 with Kenyans now digging deeper into their pockets.

“I together with other roommates of mine are now forced to share the internet cost as I am unable to pay for it as before, you know I don’t want to overburden my parents.” Atieno adds.

Angry Kenyans took to social media denouncing the high cost of living this is after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the new Finance act on June 30th that targeted common user items relied on by millions of Kenyans.

”In Kiambaa, I see Jubilee & UDA competing to see who is more powerful and influential. It is about them, not who will serve the people best. You’ll be shocked why we have poor leaders who cannot debate reduction of internet and gas prices,” said Winfrey Bridgette a Kenyan Netizen

“The use of charcoal in homesteads declined immensely but the tax hikes will force Kenyans to go back to traditional forms of cooking”, said Kipsongo Kibet on twitter.

The government’s move to tax Kenyans to the core implies that it is out of touch with the common mwananchi. The cost of living currently in the country is unbearable, yet the government is overtaxing its people without mercy, something drastic need to be done to avert a Sudan scenario.

On 30th of April, Uganda introduced a 12% tax on the internet data hence hiking prices for the online access in that country.

Majority of Ugandans criticized the move, saying that it will further impede the access to the internet at a time when covid19 had made online services even more crucial for sections of the economy namely the education sector.

“The new mechanism is to help this government achieve its main objective of industrialization for inclusive growth, employment and wealth creation,” Amos Lugoloobi, Uganda’s minister for finance and planning was quoted.

But this was not taken lightly by Uganda’s opposition leader Bobi Wine

“We must never stop protesting against these schemes by a paranoid, greedy regime,” Bobi said.

The return of VAT on cooking gas came despite attempts by lawmakers to push for its delay, for instance Dagoreti South MP John Kiarie proposed to delay the imposition of the 16% VAT on cooking gas to 1st of July 2024 this is due to the financial hardships Kenyans were going through.

On 5th of July 2021, Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja was blasted on social media over his call on the reduction of taxes to Kenyans majority of netizens wondering why as an elected leader he was tweeting about it just as any other mwananchi yet it was part of his job to legislate on it.

“We must lower taxes to Kenyans because Kenyans are suffering, Kenyans have nothing in their pockets, “he said this while on a two day tour in Nakuru where he had accompanied Presidential aspirant Musalia Mudavadi.

On 29th of July 2021, the senate’s Energy committee adjourned the meeting to discuss taxes on cooking gas this is after Treasury’s boss Ukur Yatani and his Petroleum counterpart John Munyes  failed to show up for the grilling.

BY WEMA TOYWA   #WEMA’STAKE

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