Economy

Tax and county laws top President’s Parliament agenda

President Uhuru Kenyatta. Tax and county laws top his Parliament agenda. FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Tax and county laws top his Parliament agenda. FILE 

The 11th Parliament opens on Tuesday to a legislative agenda that could be crowded further by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s priorities during his address to the National Assembly and the Senate.

Parliament will inherit 37 Bills that its predecessor left pending when its term expired on January 14. Among the urgent businesses President Kenyatta will have to conclude while entrenching some of the Jubilee coalition promises into law is the Division of Revenue and County Allocation of Revenue Bills for the 2013/14 financial year.

“My government will immediately begin the process of supporting devolution and enabling county leadership to carry out their constitutional mandate and fulfil the pledges they made to the Kenyan people,” Mr Kenyatta said.

Already, governors have raised a storm over the decision by the Treasury to draw their budgets for the next fiscal year without their involvement.

Mr Kenyatta will outline which Bills the government intends to introduce to both Houses to ensure that maternity fees are abolished and citizens access dispensaries and health centres free of charge.

He will also seek legislative backing for directing the Sh6 billion previously allocated for the presidential election run-off towards establishing a new Youth and Women Fund as well as ensuring pupils joining Class One in public schools next year receive a laptop.

Mr Kenyatta is also expected to lay the roadmap of dealing with unemployment having pledged that his administration would create jobs and opportunities “for our people, especially our young people.”

In this regard are changes to procurement laws that would ensure a fifth of State tenders are reserved for local suppliers as well as enhancing the climate for private sector to thrive.

“We will make the procurement process faster, more accessible and transparent. We will simplify the process of starting and running a business in order to make it friendly and cost-effective to do business in Kenya,” the President said.

“To the private sector, my promise to you is that we will create an enabling environment so that you can play your part in creating employment and fostering economic growth.”

President Kenyatta is, therefore, expected to order the publication and reintroduction of the Companies Bill 2010, Insolvency Bill 2010, Limited Liability Partnership Bill 2010, Special Economic Zones Bill, 2012 and the Public Procurement and Disposal (Amendment) Bill 2011, which expired with the dissolution of the previous House.

The Bills, including the Labour Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2011 were aimed at developing modern laws to support a competitive economy and stimulate foreign direct investments (FDIs).

Laws that will reform the financial sector to boost tax collection on which funding for the myriad election pledges is predicated such as the lapsed Value Added Tax Bill, 2012 are expected to be reintroduced quickly.

The Treasury was banking on the reforms in the consumer tax to collect Sh11 billion. The Bill proposing to tax items that were previously exempt or zero-rated was opposed by legislators, consumer rights groups, workers and farmer organisations, who feared higher costs could cripple sectors such as mining, agriculture, and oil exploration.

He may give priority to enactment of laws that will seal tax loopholes and those that protect the public from fraudsters such as the Prohibition of Pyramid Schemes Bill.

Other Bills the President is expected to lay emphasis on are the Matrimonial Property Bill and the Marriage Bill, 2012 which provides for the rights and responsibilities of spouses in relation to matrimonial property.

The Bills envisaged an equal legal status of men and women in marriage and recognised the capacity of spouses to acquire separate property during marriage.

“I am equally committed to ensuring that interests of women and the interests of young people are represented in my government,” the President noted.

Mr Kenyatta laid emphasis on the protection of the environment and natural resources and is expected to list Bills that will curb poaching of wildlife and those that will guide exploitation of minerals.

The Bills include the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill, the Mining and Minerals Bill 2011 and the Climate Change Bill 2011.

Apart from giving priority to Bills that will help revamp the agriculture sector and promote national unity, the President may consider reaching out to his general election losers by a focus on the reintroduction of the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill, 2012, which his predecessor Kibaki declined to pass into law.

The Bill contained retirement perks for former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Speaker Kenneth Marende.

emutai@ke.nationmedia.com