A finance bill is causing chaos in Kenya. Here’s what you need to know

The controversial bill, known as the Finance Bill 2024, has sparked discontent across the East African country since first being presented in parliament in May. President William Ruto explains that the proposal of the Bill is crucial in an attempt to revive a dilapidated economy that he inherited from past governments.

The theme of the 2024 Budget Policy Statement (BPS) is “Sustaining Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda for Economic Recovery and Improved Livelihoods.” The Finance Bill was introduced as part of Kenya’s plan to “revitalize” Kenya’s economy, raise an additional 346.7 billion Kenyan shillings in revenue, and help alleviate its debt.

What does the Finance Bill 2024 propose?

The 2024 Finance Bill proposes tax hikes and introduces new ones, such as:

  • VAT Increase

This includes fuel, from 8% to 16%, and bread, cooking gas, sanitary pads, cancer medication, and diapers, from 0% to 16%.

• New Housing Levy: 1.5% deducted from gross salary

• Digital Services Tax: 1.5% of transaction value

The Bill also includes a proposed eco-tax to increase the cost of products believed to have a negative impact on the environment, such as packaging, plastics, tires, nappies, sanitary towels, computers, and mobile phones.

Reaction to the Bill

Within Parliament

In a video going viral on the internet, self-acclaimed “bad girl” Millie Mabona Odhiambo, a member of the National Assembly of Kenya, voiced her reluctance to support it. The bill raised concerns about the increased cost of essential goods, including sanitary towels, which the government aims to produce locally.


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In Millie’s words, “While we wait to enable the local manufacturing of sanitary towels, will our periods stop?” She continues to champion laws and policies that support women, emphasizing the fact that this cannot be ignored while awaiting the local production of sanitary towels.

The lack of access to sanitary towels is a major concern for many women in African countries, including Kenya. In Kenya, where a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line, affording basic menstrual hygiene products can be challenging. The recent Finance Bill has encountered opposition due to concerns that it could worsen economic challenges and unfairly impact the less privileged.

Public protests

Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images

The Bill was not taken in good spirits, especially by the youth in Kenya, who expressed complete displeasure and disapproval of the Bill and took to the streets. What started as anger on TikTok about the controversial finance bill has morphed into a revolt. The protest, dubbed “occupy parliament,” was coordinated and mobilised on social media and saw thousands of youths march to the parliament waving signs such as “Do Not Force The Taxes On Us” while others chanted: “Ruto must go.”

Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images

At least 200 protesters have been injured and over 100 arrested in the ongoing protests against proposed tax hikes in the finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament. With a 7-point agenda, the protesters are determined to take the streets in a 7-day match to protest against the passing of the bill into law.

The Finance Bill amendment

An amendment to the finance bill was announced by Kuria Kimani, chairman of the parliamentary finance committee, at a press briefing attended by President Ruto as well as other lawmakers in the ruling coalition.

According to him, his “finance team has been collecting public views on the bill, and the decision to drop some of the proposals has been made to protect Kenyans from the increasing cost of living.”

Among amendments are the scrapping of the proposed 16 % VAT on bread, taxes on foreign exchange transactions and financial services, as well as a 2.5 % Motor Vehicle tax.

What’s Next?

The bill will be discussed once more in the third reading, focusing on the final version that includes all accepted amendments. Then, a final vote will be taken, and if approved, it will be sent to the president. The Finance Bill 2024 will undergo this stage in the coming weeks.

It is crucial to note that Kenyans want the bill to be scrapped and not amended. Otherwise, the protests will continue.

This is a developing story. You can find a detailed analysis of the Bill and its implications here.


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