Kenyan Parliament Stormed In Response To Proposed Tax Hikes

June 26, 2024
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Public backlash against Kenya’s new finance bill, which proposes a raft of tax increases including a host affecting the gambling industry, has seen protestors storm parliament and set a section of it on fire.
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Public backlash against Kenya’s new finance bill, which proposes a raft of tax increases including a host affecting the gambling industry, has seen protestors storm parliament and set a section of it on fire.

On Tuesday (June 25), five people were killed during the protest, according to the Kenyan Medical Association, after lawmakers voted in favour of the controversial Finance Bill 2024 and the government's amendments to parts of the draft law.

President William Ruto now has two weeks to sign it into law or send it back to lawmakers with more proposed amendments.

Protestors believe the changes put an unfair tax burden on people after years of tax hikes across a number of goods and services; however, the government is determined to reduce its public debt, which stands at 68 percent of its GDP.

The bill was published on May 9, 2024, and submitted to the National Assembly by the Treasury, which is when protests first began.

The changes increase the excise duty on gaming, betting and lottery products from 12.5 percent to 20 percent and amend the VAT status of several products currently exempt from tax, including gaming, betting and lottery products. The proposed rate of VAT is 16 percent. 

Additionally, the existing excise duty on gambling adverts that currently apply to traditional forms of media, such as television and print, would be expanded to online adverts, including social media platforms. 

President Ruto initially responded to public backlash with a host of amendments to the original proposal on June 18.

The amendments were aimed at reducing the proposed tax burden on people, including removing the proposed 16 percent VAT on bread, transporting sugar, financial services and foreign exchange transactions, as well as the 2.5 percent Motor Vehicle Tax. None of the proposed gambling taxes were removed. 

Ruto said: “We are going to end up with a product in parliament that came from the executive and has been interrogated by the legislature. Through public participation, the people of Kenya have had a say.”

However, Ruto’s amendments have been ineffective in quelling ongoing mass protests and it is unclear how the government will respond after the recent deadly protests, with Ruto saying he will take a "full response". 

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