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William Ruto markets house levy as debate heats up

Kenya's President William Ruto

Persuasion topped President William Ruto’s vocabulary this week as he tried to elaborate on why Kenyans should support his Housing Fund.

The fund, according to Ruto, will solve the country’s main problem of youth unemployment.

As highlighted in the proposed Finance Bill, 2023, Kenyans will be deducted three per cent from their salaries, countered by a similar contribution from employers.

The proposal has, however, elicited sharp criticism from politicians, economists, employers, workers as well as various associations.

On Monday, the President had a quiet diary with no major events outside the State House.

On Tuesday, Ruto chaired Kenya Kwanza’s sixth Parliamentary group meeting at State House where he used the opportunity to ask the alliance MPs to back his radical tax proposals and public debt plans.

The Head of State even brought in experts, including Principal Secretaries and members of the Cabinet to make MPs better understand his tax proposals and agenda.

It was said that Ruto asked the lawmakers to pass the controversial Finance Bill, 2023 as is despite public uproar.

The National Assembly Finance Committee is currently conducting public participation on the Bill before it is tabled for MPs approval.

The 2023/24 budget estimates will be presented on June 15, 2023.

On Wednesday, the President attended the ID for Africa event at South C where he took the opportunity to elaborate the achievement he has made to digitise government services.

Out of 7,000, Ruto said his administration had digitised 5,000 government services since he took over office in September 2022.

“The aim is to significantly cut down transaction costs and minimise opportunities for corruption by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy, and also increase transparency in government,” Ruto said.

The head of State said his administration intends to cover all the remaining services by the end of 2023.

President Ruto also announced that African leaders want to have a conversation on fair loan deals with international lenders.

He said the conversation revolves around ways in which every country will have an opportunity to be its best.

“We will be discussing in Paris shortly, the International Financial system and a new deal that will bring lenders and borrowers together,” he said.

Ruto emphasised that the lender cannot do without the borrower and vice versa, and the discussion will be able to leverage huge resources in the continent.

“There must be a mutual win-win outcome, we will be discussing a new system that gives an opportunity for every part of the world.”

Ruto opined that currently, the international financial system is rigged against some, where other countries access international financial resources at one per cent interest, others at more than 10 per cent.

“You cannot deliver public goods in a system where one pays 100 times more than the other, we are not asking for a financial system that favours anybody, we are asking for a fair one that gives everyone a chance,” he said.

On Thursday, the President attended the National Defence College graduation in Karen where he urged government ministries to also take up learning at the National Defence College (NDC).

Ruto said the move will enable the country to build a critical mass of like-minded senior officials who will contribute to national policy through home-grown solutions at the strategic level.

Later in the day, he laid the foundation stone for the Science Complex building at Nairobi School.

While still elaborating his achievements, the President said his administration has hired the largest cohort of teachers this year.

He said his administration is committed to hiring more teachers next year, to enable the smooth run of schools and to also create employment.

The Teachers Service Commission had in December 2022 said 10,000 of teachers will be employed on permanent pensionable terms while 25,550 will be intern teachers.

The Commission said 9,000 of the slots are for permanent secondary school teachers and 1,000 for primary school teachers while 21,550 slots are for intern teachers for Junior Secondary schools.

TSC said another 4,000 intern teachers will be hired for primary schools.

All interns who were serving in 2022 were absorbed on permanent and pensionable terms.

Friday was the climax of the diary where the President took the Housing Fund debate in Embu during the SMEs, Cooperatives and Revenue Expo at Embu University.

He said that the creation of employment is what’s driving him to introduce the plans to Kenyans.

“The real motivation behind it (housing project) is the jobs we are going to create for the young people of Kenya. Ni kuhakikisha kwamba vijana wanapata ajira (It’s to ensure the youth are employed),” he said.

Ruto said the government will need five youths for every house to be constructed.

He criticised those opposing the plan and the proposed levy.

“I hear there are some people inciting you. First, you don’t have a salary. That person with a salary is telling you to oppose (the levy). Hii dunia iko na utapeli mingi sana (The world is full of cons),” he said.

The government intends to curb mushrooming of informal settlements through the housing programme. There are 1,411 informal settlements across the country.

“Kenya is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the world; whereas in some places it’s at 3.7 per cent, Kenya’s rate is 4.4 per cent. By 2050, 68 per cent of Kenyans will be urban dwellers. If our strategy works, people will either live in slums or in affordable housing,” Ruto added.

He explained that the government will ensure that the construction materials used in the project are sourced locally to boost the local manufacturing industry.


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