Through a press statement,below is Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi’s take on the government’s deduction of 1.5% of employee’s salary to fund the Affordable Housing Programme;
1. I wish to send a message of goodwill to my fellow Kenyans wherever they may be in the country and beyond, as we get into the season of Easter. Together with the ended season of Lent, Easter reminds us of the passion of Christ. The Christian fraternity throughout the world has just gone through a season of fasting, reflection and prayer. Hopefully the passion of Christ and the self-sacrificing spirit of Easter will help to make us better people.
2. This year’s Easter comes at a time when our country is going through very difficult times. Kenyans are smarting under the weight of very many burdens. We are experiencing worrying drought, attended to by famine in parts of the country. The famine is a factor of poor planning and mismanagement of the food sector in the country. As a result, Kenyans have died and continue to die of famine, despite State denial.
3. Elsewhere, the cost of living is becoming unbearable to a great majority of the citizens. Insecurity and lawlessness is steadily becoming the order of the day. Even at the domestic level, Kenyans cannot feel too safe anymore. Life and limb have been lost at the hands of those we think we should trust. Even State agents – such as the police – whom we would usually turn to, have engaged in extra judicial killing. The police, gangsters, drugs, alcohol, reckless drivers and sundry undesirables have become agents of death in our country.
4. Apart from these tragic scenarios theft by servant in high places in government, is also the order of the day. We are now losing count of the billions of shillings that have been reported stolen in the first quarter of this year. It seems to be accepted that stealing from the public is one of the benefits and rights of being in power. Amidst all this, the most useful intervention by government has been whistleblowing by one corner of the government against the other corner. Our war on corruption is no more than a theatre of the absurd. There is no real action against our tormentors, apart from high-sounding threats. Things could not possibly get worse than they are. It is a tribute to the resilient spirit of our people that they still wake up the next day to soldier on in this state of expansive hopelessness.
5. If there should be any intervention in the lives of Kenyans at this moment, it should be intervention that gives them a measure of relief. Tragically, the only intervention that we have seen so far is intervention that betrays reckless insensitivity towards the suffering of the people. The newly introduced 1.5 percent house tax on the Kenyan worker purports to be an intervention that will provide comfort in shelter. Yet it is at once insensitive, burdensome and not altogether lawful. It is burdensome and insensitive because you are taxing an already overloaded worker. This worker is already burdened with just about the highest income tax in the world today. Add to this value added tax, on a wide range of goods and services. Load on a myriad levies on petrol and petroleum products. Then now bring in this new levy. You are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
6. Kenyans must be left with something from the sweat of their brows. If this government is truly committed to affordable housing, it must make it possible for Kenyans to build houses affordably on their own. The starting point is to create an environment that supports sustainable creation of jobs and wealth. To do this, this government must reign in its corrupt officials; beginning with the most highly placed ones. If the billions that are looted on a daily basis were to be recovered and injected in legitimate transactions and programmes, they would generate jobs and wealth. The wealth and jobs would in turn enable Kenyans to build houses cost effectively.
7. Another angle of the same effort would be to reduce the cost of construction environment, without hurting those who contribute to that environment. For a start, the cost of land in the country needs to be rationalized. We have evolved into a greedy nation where everything about land has been distorted and blown out of proportion. Land grabbing and artificial escalation of the value of land are two of the foremost factors in making housing unaffordable. The government must begin by rounding up known land grabbers and have the stolen lands restored to the public. These people must also be put away in prison, to discourage future land grabbing. Beyond this, the cost of construction materials must be addressed, as well as the cost of energy.
8. For now, the housing levy must be put on hold. For, beyond being burdensome, it has the smell of a scandal in the making. The public and building economists and other experts have asked very many questions that remain unanswered. The money that is expected to be collected looks disproportionately larger than the cost of housing, even in these bad times. Who is fooling whom? What is the excess money supposed to do? Who are going to be the contractors in the said “affordable housing” schemes? How have they been selected? Do they have affinity to some people in the government? How are the people contributing to this scheme going to benefit from the housing levy? There can be no taxation without benefits.
9. As we enter this Easter season, let the spirit of Christian goodness get into the people in government so that they can for once think about the people and less about themselves. Let them demonstrate this goodness by shelving this ill conceived levy and housing programme, until we are all sure that we want it and that it is beneficial to the longsuffering people of this country.
10. Otherwise, let me once again wish my fellow citizens a peaceful and blessed Easter. Once again, let us drive carefully to avoid accidents on the roads. Let us be mindful of one another. Happy Easter and God bless.
HE Musalia Mudavadi, EGH
ANC Party Leader & Founder of the National Super Alliance