The government should review the proposed compulsory housing tax, which has elicited stiff opposition from some workers. Its objective and application are not clear. For many workers, it is an unnecessary levy that only diminishes their incomes without commensurate benefits.
For one, the workers are against the figure — 1.5 per cent of one’s monthly salary. It is particularly painful for low-income earners, for whom any levy is an additional burden and, worse, when it is imposed unilaterally.
Several labour unions have rejected the levy on the grounds that it amounts to double taxation. At the weekend, Deputy President William Ruto was put to task over the matter at the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers Union (Kuppet) annual general meeting, with the union insisting that the levy must go.
Broadly, the unions have argued that it is not the business of the government to provide houses for workers. Housing is a private matter.
Individuals make decisions on their housing arrangements and cannot, therefore, be compelled by the government to pay for it.
At any rate, private individuals or firms exist to build houses and sell them to those in need and able to pay.
Often, workers organise themselves on how to secure housing. Many go through their co-operative societies or savings, which they adequately plan for.
That every worker is made to pay a levy is appalling, considering the many who already have their own houses and for whom the priority is to invest in other things.
The public is wary of any government initiative where public financing is involved.
Various contributory schemes such as the National Health Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund are engulfed in deep financial crises due to corruption. Public money is squandered at will and, although efforts are being made to rein in the looters, the fact is that money is being lost in billions.
There is no guarantee that the proposed housing fund will be insulated from the greedy looters.
Neither has the government spelt out how the housing scheme will work. Who will benefit? How will they benefit? How will the funds be managed? Essentially, the plan has not been clearly articulated and workers have every reason to resist it.
Coming at a time when the government has been on a tax-levying spree, its wisdom is questionable. Citizens cannot be bombarded with all sorts of levies.
They need a break. The government should listen to the workers and rethink the levy. As currently conceived, it is unjustified and untenable; hence it should be reversed.