Doublespeak: Puzzle of leaders who supported Uhuru's housing levy and now oppose Ruto's
Over the past
month, Kenyans have partaken in the heightened divisive political talks
elicited by a proposal by government to introduce a Housing Fund levy that
wants employees to pay 3 per cent of their monthly salaries
to the government for building affordable houses.
The government has
had a difficult time convincing Kenyans to welcome the controversial
proposal with open minds, amid harsh censuring from the opposition.
Ruto has innumerably said that the project will be a win-win because it will
allow Kenyans to acquire property and also create employment opportunities for Kenyan
Kenyans and the
opposition have however questioned President Ruto on why the contribution
should be mandatory, arguing that it would increase the tax burden.
leader Raila Odinga has opined that the contribution be made voluntary just as
ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta did in his tenure while also pushing for the
Affordable Housing scheme in his Big Four agenda.
Amid the wrangles,
there is a striking observation on the shift of goalposts by political leaders
who backed the proposal during former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term but are now resisting it
In 2018, just a
few months after Uhuru was re-elected into office, he said that Kenyans will be
needed to contribute 1.5% of their salaries to the housing fund which was
likewise met with contention from Kenyans and a section of government.
The fund, dubbed
the National Housing Development Fund, was to help the government realise its
goal of delivering 500,000 affordable housing units countrywide in five years
At the time, Uhuru
argued that the programme would help avert the poor housing crisis that was
swiftly sprouting in parts of the nation.
"What we are
saying is your contribution is helping you become a homeowner. We are living in
a scenario where as a county since independence we have less than 500,000
mortgage holders," said Uhuru during a joint media interview in 2019.
"We have to
build a culture where somebody is able to say I know I can borrow for 20 years
because I know I have gone to school and I have 20 or 30 years of work life
then I can have an affordable mortgage."
He added: "If
we want Kenyans to be homeowners we must develop and build products that make
back-and-forth tussle in Parliament and in the courts, Uhuru announced that the
contribution will be made voluntary
implementation of the Housing Fund Levy as a mandatory contribution, for both
employees and employers, has at every turn, been fraught with an avalanche of
legal hurdles and obstacles,” he said in his Jamhuri Day speech.
“In this regard,
and to ensure that the implementation of the programme is not derailed any
further, I hereby direct and order that The National Treasury, the ministry
responsible for Housing moves to Parliament, a revision to the legal
requirement in respect to the Housing Fund Levy, to make the contribution
voluntary, with immediate effect.”
despite being a huge relief for Kenyans, shattered the realization of Uhuru's
Big 4 agenda where the levy was included as a key plank.
At the end of his
term, only about 13,000 units had been constructed.
Azimio la Umoja One
Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga was also among those who backed Uhuru's
ambitious plan of providing affordable houses.
the nation in a bid to woo Kenyans to elect him as President in the 2022
campaigns, Mr. Odinga stated that he will revive the plan because he believed
it had the potential to be achieved.
"That was a
very good policy, I want to revive it, where an employee will be contributing
1.5 per cent and the employer 1.5 per cent that will go into a pool of funds
that can enable us to roll out massive housing development in our
country," he said.
Mr. Odinga has now
blamed government for its plan to tax Kenyans, arguing that the government
is subjecting the country’s citizens through “a mere charade and a
does not lead to distribution of income. It does not combat poverty. Instead,
it seeks to manufacture and distribute poverty. This proposal does not spur
economic growth or generate wealth so that every family in this country can
have opportunities. It traces and kills those opportunities,” he said.
On the flip side,
however, the proposal was also opposed by some of the leaders who are now
sitting on the other side of the political table.
Secretary Musalia Mudavadi was among those who fingered the then government for
overtaxing citizens, terming the fund as insensitive.
that is expected to be collected looks disproportionately larger than the cost
of housing even in these bad times because you are taxing an already overloaded
worker," he said then.
"It is also
unlawful. This worker has already been burdened with just about the highest
income tax in the world."
Now in government,
Prime CS Mudavadi is at the forefront of championing for the levy, urging
Kenyans to brace for tough economic times as the administration fixes the sorry
state of the economy.
President Ruto, on
his part, faulted the Uhuru-led administration for making a political truce
with Mr. Odinga then, claiming that it impeded the government from focusing on
delivering its promises to Kenyans.
He claimed that he
was hijacked in working with his former boss, vowing to oversee Uhuru's legacy
since he pioneered the Big Four plan.
President Ruto has
now doubled the levy deduction to 3% from the 1.5% that had been proposed during
The State aims to
build around one million homes in five years, with an average of
200,000 homes a year.
proposal has been included in the proposed Finance Bill, 2023 which was
published on April 28 and presented before the House on May 4, 2023.
The Bill is
pending Parliament's scrutiny to be given a greenlight.
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