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Kenyans denounce high cost of living because of tax hikes

Kenyans lashed out angrily on social media to denounce the high cost of living after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a new Finance Act on Jun 30 that targets basic commodities relied on by millions.

The price of commonly used 13-kilogram (8-pound) of cooking gas skyrocketed July 1 from an average of 2,000 Kenya shillings ($18.50) to 2,350 shillings ($21.77) — a 350 shilling, or 16%, value-added tax.

Also targeted were mobile phone airtime and data from 15% to 20% and a 20% excise duty on loan fees. This comes as commercial banks and mobile loan companies increased rates amid a high borrowing appetite by Kenyans.

Kenyans turned to social media to say that even before the tax hikes they were facing tougher times.

”The poor mwananchi (Kenyan citizen) cannot afford this,” said Samaya, a Kenyan netizen.

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

“Gas price increase in Kenya is a threat to ecosystem services and a big blow to conservation and mitigation of climate change. Many people will resort to the use of charcoal and kerosene which results [in] shrinking of carbon sequestration capacity and [an] increase in carbon emissions,” said Kibet.

On the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, shoe shiner Paul Muchangi told Anadolu Agency: “The call rates are high as they were, I can barely afford airtime. Why are they increasing the tax? At home my family uses gas to cook, I struggle a lot to buy it but I am sure it will last long, I cannot afford this. I would rather just go back to using charcoal and kerosene stoves.”

Netizen Mueni Awilly said: “The cost of living in Kenya is going to be unbearable. The government is overtaxing us until we can’t breath[e]. Tax Airtime, excise duty on bank transactions, gas … and we are expecting fuel price increase by 14th … salary cuts for civil servants.”

Kenyatta signed the Finance Act to fund the 2021-2022 fiscal budget. The government aims to raise at least 1.5 trillion Kenya shillings ($13.8 billion) from new taxes. according to the Treasury Department.

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