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EDITORIAL: MPs insincere in bid to reject Finance Bill

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The chaotic show in Parliament yesterday, during the vote on the controversial Finance Bill, was appalling.

It demonstrates a House that thrives on drama rather than substance. MPs were dishonest; their actions were meant for public display more than anything.

Yet, at the end of the day, the outcome they sought to achieve — reject the value added tax on petroleum products — failed.

In the morning, the MPs passed the supplementary budget, slashing Sh37.6 billion from the Sh3 trillion Budget read in June.

But in the afternoon, it was a totally unruly House that refused to listen to pleas by Speaker Justin Muturi. Reason failed and MPs resorted to mob behaviour.

The stalemate arose over the vote on the fuel levy. According to the Standing Orders, the House required two-thirds of the members to vote against the memorandum by President Uhuru Kenyatta, in which he had rejected the Finance Bill 2018 and halved the 16 percent VAT on petroleum products.

Several issues came to the fore. First, the MPs exhibited a high level of hypocrisy. Whereas in the morning they voted for expenditures, in the afternoon they sought to vote out proposals for raising revenues.

Since they had approved the budgetary expenditure, how did they expect it to be financed? Where would the government generate revenues to fund the expenditures?

Secondly, the contestation over the number of MPs who voted against the memorandum was unjustified.

Parliamentary processes are automated and it is not difficult to establish the exact number of those who vote for or against a Bill. What transpired was sheer showmanship; simply playing to the public gallery.

In any case, the MPs are as guilty over the impasse over the fuel tax as the Executive. When the Bill was first discussed in 2013, it is they who asked that it be deferred for two years — to take effect in 2015 — and this was again extended to 2018.

All this while, the MPs did not do anything about it. They only waited until the last minute, the end of last month, to debate and reject it. This is dishonesty.

Which is the reason we are convinced that the MPs were not sincere in their opposition to the Bill and the way they handled the debate.

History will judge them harshly — that, at critical junctures in our history, they tend to act impulsively and fail the public.

Indeed, it is absurd that they disobey even the very Standing Orders they have sworn to protect.

The MPs must understand that the public is enlightened and cannot be hoodwinked by cheap drama.

Even so, the Executive must also read the public mood and realise that the ground is shifting quite fast. The era of whipping MPs to do the Executive’s bidding is long gone.



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