28 March 2014

Kenya: Economy Requires Urgent, Sustained Rethink - ODM

Nairobi — The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) on Friday urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to review his administration's economic development as he seeks ways to stem the rising cost of living.

Acting Party Leader Anyang' Nyong'o told a news conference at the party's headquarters that the Jubilee administration's decision to impose 16 percent Value Added Tax on goods and services had made life unbearable for many Kenyans.

"Our economy requires urgent, immediate and sustained rethink. The absurd policy of tax and spend has traumatised Kenyans," Nyong'o said.

There is however a bill in the National Assembly which seeks to make basic foods such as milk, sugar and vegetables VAT exempt.

"We are seeing and hearing the same old ideology that we've heard before over and over again: Salary cuts, retrenchment of workers, cleaning up the payroll of ghost workers and how there will be just a little more pain before it gets better. Kenyans are going through tremendous pain. It must not get worse."

Nyong'o who is standing in for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is on month-long tour of the US, cautioned that Kenyans were starting to lose patience with the Jubilee administration saying the public deserves better.

He noted that the government has often delayed in taking decisive action to protect Kenyans from exploitation. He cited the introduction date of the VAT where National Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich did not act fast enough to publish items that were exempted from the new law, exposing it to exploitation by rogue businessmen.

The ODM acting Party Leader also cited the government's casual handling of serious challenges of insecurity and fight against terrorism.

"There is a feeling that public matters are being casual, and problems are being tackled in an impromptu basis. There doesn't seem to be a line of action that is going in a certain direction. This uncertainty is lack of a road-map that is consistently being followed, and it is worrying," Nyong'o stated.

The Kisumu Senator who served as a Planning Minister in the NARC government added that President Kenyatta needs to focus on eliminating corruption in government, insecurity, and lowering the cost of living.

ODM challenged the Jubilee Coalition to use its parliamentary strength to formulate legislation that will deal with youth unemployment and address the cost of living as well as encourage setting up of small enterprises.

"Jubilee must use its numerical strength in the Houses of Parliament to come up with administrative, regulatory and legislative measures to help small firms start and expand. But if we are to create job creators and not job seekers, the cost of loans have to fall," Nyong'o added. "Jubilee must use its numbers to champion these positive measures."

With the expected roll-out of the Sh6 billion Uwezo Fund and the enactment of a Bill that seeks to allocate at least 30 percent of the government's annual procurement to the youth, Nyong'o said the government must embrace small contractors and change the way it does business with them.

"Start-ups cannot afford to chase payments for months. A simpler engagement would help turn many enterprising young Kenyans into job creators, not job seekers. Small businesses must be treated as the engine of growth, and essential to economic recovery," advised in his statement.

The opposition party said it expects that the Head of State will give a road-map on how he seeks to address runaway cases of insecurity in the country, heightened cases of poaching, and how his administration would strengthen devolution.

"We are not convinced that the gaps in our security exposed by those attacks have been closed. The Government is saying the right words about the threat we face. But it has failed to take action commensurate with the threat.

"Poachers have invaded our world famous wildlife heritage with abandon," Nyong'o told journalists at Orange House.

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