KENYA: Catholic Bishops Call for Review of Finance Bill 2024, Warn of Potential Oppressive Impact for Kenyans

By Wesley Omondi

NAIROBI, JUNE 11, 2024 (CISA) The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has issued a fervent appeal to the government to reconsider the Finance Bill 2024, citing concerns over its potential oppressive impact on the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

In a detailed statement dated June 7, 2024, the bishops outlined their apprehensions regarding several proposed tax measures and urged the government to focus on combating corruption and reducing the wastage of public resources to support essential services.

“We believe that the Finance Bill 2024 if passed in its current form, will be oppressive and cause untold suffering among Kenyans,” stated the Bishops.

They emphasized the Church’s dedication to social justice, particularly the preferential option for the poor, a principle that guides their opposition to the bill’s impact on basic commodities such as bread.

“Any law that adversely affects the poor and impoverished stands in direct opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the bishops asserted.

One of the major points of contention is the proposed 2.5% tax on motor vehicles. The bishops argued that this tax, in addition to existing levies, would disproportionately affect ordinary citizens by increasing public transport fares and operational costs for Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs).

Catholic Bishops of Kenya in a past press conference.

“While this tax could potentially improve tax collection and road infrastructure, we question which public service this tax will serve,” they stated, highlighting the redundancy given the existing Road Maintenance Fuel Levy.

The Bishops also voiced their concern over the potential environmental repercussions of the Bill, positing that it could set back progress in promoting newer and greener technologies.

“The new taxes may inadvertently undermine efforts to combat climate change, as SMEs and individuals might resort to using older, less fuel-efficient vehicles,” noted the prelates.

Another significant issue is the proposed increase in excise duty on financial transactions from 15% to 20%, and the addition of VAT on mobile banking transactions. The Catholic bishops warn “This will disproportionately affect lower-income customers, pushing them towards cash transactions and informal money storage methods.”

The eco-levy on goods such as mobile phones, diapers, and plastic packaging also drew criticism. The Bishops acknowledged the government’s intent to support the digital and creative economy but cautioned that the levy might hinder access to essential goods.

“This levy, while commendable in its environmental goals, could obstruct widespread access to smartphones and other necessary items,” stated the bishops.

The Bishops concluded by urging the government to adopt a tax regime that fosters economic growth rather than stifling the private sector and overburdening the poor.

“It is regrettable that despite pleas to our leaders to lower the cost of living, a significant portion of tax revenues ends up in the pockets of a few well-connected individuals,” they stated, calling on lawmakers to heed the cries of the people and revise the contentious clauses in the Finance Bill 2024.