Kenya: Tough Times for Kenyans As Rotich Prepares to Unveil Sh3.02trn Budget

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (file photo).

Nairobi — Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is preparing to table this year's budget on Thursday afternoon with higher taxes that will push Kenyans into tougher times ahead.

Even though this year's Sh3.02 trillion budget is a 4.2 per cent reduction compared to last year's, taxation of key commodities will still deal a blow to the average Kenyan who is already struggling with inflation.

The budget estimates set the national government expenditure ceiling at 1.8 trillion with Parliament budget capped at Sh 43.8 billion.

In the new budget, Rotich will be raiding Kenyans' pockets to fund President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four priority projects of affordable housing, food security, universal healthcare and enhanced manufacturing which will be funded to the tune of Sh450 billion, representing 14.6 per cent of the 2019/20 budget.

"I just hope he considers the challenges we already have," Kenneth Kimani who deals in second clothes in downtown Nairobi said, "higher taxes means tough times for us."

Experts have further warned that any marginal increase in VAT on basic commodities could hit the already struggling Kenyans after the Treasury set a revenue target of Sh2.2 trillion, up from Sh1.9 trillion.gov

According to tax expert Samuel Mwaura, National Treasury should now shift its focus to the performance of the economy, pegging external borrowing solely on the ability of to finance new debt.

The progressive reduction of budget deficit would however, according to Mwaura, a Tax and Finance Consultant with Grant Thornton Kenya, require the formulation of a clear policy by the National Treasury to tame reliance on debt.

"They're not coming up with a clear methodology on how they are going to attain the 3 per cent. The way things are going we can only see more borrowing as we go forward," Mwaura told Capital FM on Wednesday, even as Kenyans were warned to prepare for tough times ahead.

He said the implementation of the Big Four Agenda would require huge investments whose funding cannot be secured through locally generated revenues alone which according to budget estimates for the 2019/20 financial year tabled in the National Assembly last Tuesday are projected to reach Sh 2.1 trillion as against a Sh 3.02 trillion budget.

For Ann Omolo, "the government keeps increasing taxes, yet we don't see what they are doing with it We just hear of big projects that are never implemented."

Mwaura said the government should consider halting the implementation of capital-intensive development projects under President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four development agenda in order to cushion the nation against debt uptake.

"The reason why our budget is thoroughly inflated is because of political ambitions and promises made which the government feels obligated to meet them. It is good to come out and say it is not possible; the economy cannot allow us to do all these projects," he explained, noting that a Sh 2 trillion budget would be within the country's ability to finance.

Mwaura emphasized on the need to finance budget deficit primarily through external borrowing to cushion the public from reduced access to loans with commercial banks often opting to lend the government at the expense of individual borrowers.

2019/20 budget estimates put the percentage of funds to be borrowed from the local market at 47 per cent against 53 per cent of debt set to be financed through external sources.

"External borrowing is the way to go. When the government concentrates on borrowing locally then it affects the capacity of local banks to lend to the common mwananchi because they (banks) are getting better returns from the government and assured returns for that matter," he said.

The budget deficit for the 2019/20 financial year is estimated at Sh 607.8 billion, Sh 324.3 billion of which will be financed through external borrowing while Sh 289.2 billion will be raised through domestic borrowing.

Government borrowing has recently sparked controversy following revelations that the country's sovereignty over some key infrastructure assets could be jeopardized in the event the country defaults on foreign loans.

Mwaura held the opinion that the National Treasury should shift its focus to the performance of the economy, pegging external borrowing solely on the ability of the economy to finance new debt.

"As an accountant we you look at the figures the most important thing is whether or not you're able to repay and what the interest rates are," he said.

"Some of the things we're not being told clearly is what the securities are and whether we're putting our major infrastructure into jeopardy by listing them as security for loans," he added, while emphasizing on the need to limit borrowing which has continuously led to the shrinking revenues available for development.

The current debt burden, Mwaura said, left the government with hardly sufficient funds after servicing debt and paying for recurrent expenditure.

Kenya's debt had by September last year risen to Sh 5.2 trillion, Sh 2.5 trillion of which was owed to domestic lenders.

The National Treasury is targeting to raise Sh 607.8 billion to plug a budget deficit in the Sh 3.02 trillion 2019/20 financial year budget.

The Sh 3.02 trillion budget marks a 4.2 per cent reduction compared to the 2018/19 Sh 3.07 trillion budget.

The decline is mainly attributed to reduced allocations for Consolidated Fund Services (CFS) which will now stand at Sh 962.6 billion compared to Sh 805.8 billion in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

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