No respite as MPs sidestep crucial fuel law – The Star, Kenya

• Bill seeks to reduce taxes charged on petroleum products by half.
• Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2021, as well as the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021 given priority.
Kenyans yearning for cheaper fuel may have to wait longer after MPs failed to line up the proposed changes to the law granting reduced costs.
The Petroleum Products (Taxes and Levies) (Amendment Bill), 2021, has not been queued among legislative pieces to be transacted on during the special sitting today.
The bill seeks to reduce VAT on petroleum products from eight per cent to four per cent, gross margins charged by oil marketers to Sh9 from Sh12, set petroleum levy at Sh2.9 per litre and establish a board to manage the buffer – Petroleum Development Levy Fund.
The Finance committee chaired by Homa Bay county MP Gladys Wanga had concluded its review of the bill – first read on September 9 and tabled its report on December 2.
“The committee observed that if enacted, the bill will lower the price of petroleum products and LPG in the country,” the Wanga-led team said.
Prices of commodities have skyrocketed, dampening the frenzy and shopping dash that comes with the festive season.
A 13-kg cylinder of LPG now trades for an average Sh2,900 while a 6-kg goes for Sh1,400 on average.
Prices of cooking oil are also on the roof and so are other basic commodities whose prices are dependent on transport costs.
However, MPs have lined up business among them the approval of the nominee for appointment to the position of chairperson of the Public Service Commission.
MPs are also set to approve the nominees for appointment to the National Gender and Equality Commission.
The special sitting would also see the first reading of the Huduma Bill, which seeks to anchor the Huduma Namba identification platform.
National Assembly is also set for the second reading of the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to introduce the concept of coalitions trading as political parties.
Lawmakers are also set to vote on the motion for the second reading of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
MPs are also set for the consideration of Senate amendments to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
A notice by Speaker Justin Muturi showed that the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2021, as well as the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, would be taken through all stages.
MPs are also set to take through the third reading, the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute Bill, 2020.
Minority leader John Mbadi said the bill may not yield much with its proposed tax reductions.
“We seem to like operating on a knee-jerk ground. Petroleum issues have everything to do with exhaustion of the petroleum levy fund,” the Suba South MP said, adding this was why the country didn’t have money to stabilise pump prices.
“It is good to process the bill and remove a few taxes here and there but the bulk of dealing with petroleum prices is to streamline the levy,” he said
It will depend on that buffer – the levy. This is what would provide a fund to stabilise the prices. It will come when we resume in January,” Mbadi, a member of the House Business Committee, added.
In the ensuing circumstances, Kenyans will have to wait longer to enjoy the reliefs proposed in the bill.
This is despite President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga assuring Kenyans that they would rally MPs to work ways of providing the desired reliefs.
In his Mashujaa Day speech, President Kenyatta directed the Petroleum ministry and National Treasury to develop a framework to stabilise fuel prices.
“This is so as to cushion Kenyans against the turbulence caused by the current volatility in fuel prices,” Uhuru said.
In his State of Nation address, the President said the construction of the new oil terminal would end the delays said to cost Kenyans billions of shillings in demurrage payments, which are passed to consumers.
“Let us tear down the barriers that make our country uncompetitive. We have put up a new oil terminal that will accommodate four vessels at a time,” the President said.
The Exchequer, from the onset, has been uncomfortable with any reduction in tax charged on fuel, being desperate for revenue.
“An amendment bill leads to an appropriation bill. It will affect national government borrowing plan and will also occasion changes in Division of Revenue,” Treasury PS Julius Muia said.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)
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