Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has raised concern over the recent ban of shisha and the closure of clubs, saying the move hurts the economy.
Mr Balala said the ban on the water-pipe tobacco imposed by outgoing Health CS Cleopa Mailu was a "miscalculated" one.
At the same time, Mr Balala accused the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) of pretence regarding the closure of clubs “after failing to regulate issues.”
“You do your job, we will support but you don’t wake up overnight and ban shisha or start closing clubs. The whole world has shisha, why ban it in Kenya? If we have issues of health, put a tax. Why don’t you ban cigarettes. Why don’t you ban alcohol? I am not a smoker so I am not defending shisha smokers,” said Mr Balala.
He spoke at Pride Inn Hotel in Mombasa while responding to questions by MPs during a three-day induction retreat for the National Assembly Committee on Sports, Tourism and Culture.
The retreat ended on Sunday.
Mr Balala argued that the Ministry of Health ought to have taxed the shisha businesses to generate more revenue.
“You don’t wake up overnight and close down some investments just because of your failure in enforcing rules,” he said.
Mr Balala said in Monaco, for instance, one of the restaurants earns 100 million euros from shisha sales alone.
He added: “If we get 10 or 20 per cent from this, it will be good revenue for the government.”
His remarks came even as the substance was still being smoked in some entertainment joints in Mombasa and Kilifi.
Mr Balala said a number of youth have been rendered jobless following the shisha ban and closure of the clubs.
“Nema for example wakes up and decides to close a night club, in the guise of noise. This is one way of frustrating investors. You mean all along they never knew this club existed?” he said.
Mr Balala said some measures taken by government agencies amounted to frustration and harassment of business owners.
“This country is a gem in terms of tourism, but we haven’t packaged it well. I can tell you the potential is there we just have to partner and be stronger together.
"When you see a project, business or a hotel that has not been completed, know that the owner has been frustrated through the process by us in government collectively,” he said.
He told the legislators not to develop regulations that will scare away investors and hurt the country’s economy.