Friday, December 5, 2008

MPs as a national security threat

I do not know who I should be angry at regarding this matter of taxes. Is it the MPs who do not want to pay taxes or government which robs its people through pervasive and high taxes?

Folks, this, put simply, is my creed: I believe in low taxation or in cutting taxes. I believe, good people, that you should have more of the money you earn in your pocket than give it to that alimentary canal called government. I believe in government bending over backwards to reduce poverty and making life bearable, and people waking up believing the day will be good and tomorrow better. I believe in government being tough on crime and the causes of crime.

I believe in government rewarding the people who work hard and who play by the rules as they strive to create wealth and make Kenya a better place for the coming generations. I believe an MP should speak up, stand up and stick up for the ordinary folks who want to make this our country a better place to live in. The MP should mobilise these people towards creating wealth and ensuring that they are not unfairly taxed by the local authorities and or government. I believe that government must not be a burden to the people, but rather a creator of the right atmosphere in which people can create wealth, have the wealth protected while ensuring that the wealthy do not use their wealth to oppress the less endowed.

It is to these laws that I turn for the realisation of these beliefs and, of course, it is to Parliament I look for these laws that will ensure fairness and fair play and reason for us to believe in a better tomorrow. Naturally, I am deeply suspicious of government. Government will look under my bed to find something to tax, and yet government has absolutely no idea the aches of head, heart and mind I go through to earn that money. Naturally, I would want to keep as much of the money I earn as possible, but despite my politics and anathema for pay slip-prying government, I know I must pay tax. Would this be different if I were an MP? I will tell you this straight; I am an increasingly sensitive person. At a time when the price of maize flour is Sh120; at time when the electricity bill has tripled; at a time when City Hall has doubled parking fees; at a time when the water bills are going up and at a time when the President has declared there will be pay increase for workers, people need their MPs to stand up, speak up and stick up for them.

You do not speak up, stand up and stick up for suffering people by declaring that as an MP you will not pay tax.

You do not stand up, speak and stick up for tax-burdened citizens by arm-twisting and blackmailing government into exempting you from paying tax.

Among other things, Kenyans are taxed heavily so that the government may raise revenue to give them services, to meet its obligations to the people. Kenyans are taxed heavily in order that MPs may drive the luxury cars that they do and maintain them. Kenyans are taxed heavily in order that MPs may have loans for houses, be paid constituency allowances, travelling allowances, sitting allowances, entertainment allowances, name them.

It is, may I submit, obscene for people who cause us to be taxed this heavily to exempt themselves from paying tax!

Parliament is peopled by increasingly insensitive MPs. You do not refuse to pay taxes at a time when the people who pay taxes so that you may be honourable and happy are worried stiff about the looming global economic crunch and fear for their jobs and businesses. House Speaker Kenneth Marende buttressed this view when he unapologetically said that those MPs who are offering to pay taxes were doing so out of philanthropy. The Speaker, himself the face of Parliament, put the boot in.

But this time round, MPs may rue the day they exempted themselves from paying tax. I listen to radio. I watch television, I read the print and online newspapers. I also listen to what they call in the Arab world The Street. People stop me and ask me questions. I will tell you this, good people: Kenyans are angry. They are angry with MPs; the same people they elected only 11 months ago. Their mantra is simple - who do we turn to in our hour of need when the people’s watchmen have turned against us?

What happens when the people lose confidence in their elected representatives this early in the life of the Tenth Parliament? Until the House regains this confidence, civil society may use this as an opportunity to regain its lost lustre. Agitation against Parliament will be on the cards as was the case early in the last decade when the Sixth Parliament, the most weak-kneed the country has ever had, was the butt of jokes and derision. Important matters affecting the country were not discussed in Parliament, but in the streets.

Until and unless the Tenth Parliament fights to win over the Kenyan people again, the perception will be entrenched that Parliament is a do-nothing-for-the-people institution peopled by do-everything-for-ourselves MPs. Until and unless the Tenth Parliament levels up with the Kenyan people on the matter of taxes and on the issues of reducing poverty and helping make Kenya a better place for posterity, MPs will come across as people who sought to go to the House to enrich themselves.

Now I know I am angry with Parliament and not this bloated and unwieldy government.

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