Monday, February 16, 2009

Keep the Civil Servants Out of this!

By Lukoye Atwoli
Published in the Sunday Nation 15 February 2009, page 23

This past week, the Grand Coalition government continued in its bumbling ways. Despite the deafening silence over the issue of ‘constitutional office holders’ and MPs paying tax, the government has now moved to ask civil servants to ‘donate’ a tenth of their March salaries to a fund meant to alleviate the suffering of hungry Kenyans. The same fund is meant to create opportunities for jobless youth among other ‘brilliant’ government ideas!
As many commentators have already repeated ad nauseum, this government has completely lost the plot. Once again they are turning to the hapless civil servant who is carrying the huge burden of taking care of his or her own family as well as many other people who are either relatives or close friends. Apart from the huge tax burden placed upon the self-same civil servant, a further levy of ten percent will be imposed on them next month.
Once this practice is accepted, nobody knows where it will end. Next time the dykes of Budalang’i break and river Nzoia floods its basin, the government may turn once again to its loyal employees and impose some new tax in the form of a ‘contribution’ to help those affected. Soon any tragedy will result in some form of taxation to help deal with the crisis.
Indeed it should not come as a surprise when a national ‘benevolence fund’ is set up, quite apart from the regular tax regime, to provide funds to help finance national mourning in case some self-important potentate chokes on his sumptuous dinner and kicks the proverbial bucket!
It should not be lost on Kenyans that a number of ministers in this same government have refused to pay taxes, questioning why they should pour their money into a veritable bottomless pit whose use they are not sure of. Some even went as far as saying that they would only pay tax when they are sure the money will go back to their own constituencies! Turning back to Kenyans and assuming they have the memories of mosquitoes is the height of insensitivity on the part of our politicians.
These same Kenyans are now buying maize meal at prices that have never been seen in the history of this country as a result of outright theft by those charged with the responsibility of maintaining a strategic grain reserve. The same Kenyans are paying extortionate amounts of money for fuel and transport because the political class has colluded with thieving businessmen to steal oil and profit from the misery of the majority.
Law-abiding citizens are now expected to increase their tax ‘contribution’ to over forty percent, while their rulers philanthropically give a paltry ten percent of their hefty pay to the same cause. One politician even went as far as to suggest that his constituents were poor and miserable as a result of paying taxes, and he had no desire to join them in their poverty!
It does not take a tax specialist to calculate how much money would be raised every month were KRA allowed to tax the incomes of MPs and all those legally exempted from paying tax. This would be raised in perpetuity, and not just in one month. Notwithstanding the itchy fingers of our ruling class, it is a sure bet the money would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of millions of Kenyans perennially faced with starvation.
Kenyans should give considerable thought to boycotting this latest attempt at robbery in broad daylight, and continue channeling their philanthropy away from this kleptocratic regime, helping their starving relatives and neighbours as they have always done. As long as the ‘contribution’ remains voluntary, we should let the political class shoulder this burden all on their own.

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