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GBO_Kenya President William Ruto

Kenya President William Ruto’s tax hikes alienate his ‘hustler’ base

Since William Ruto took power, prices for everyday food items have increased

Around 80% of voters in the Githunguri district of Kenya supported William Ruto in the presidential election last August, giving the self-proclaimed “champion of hustlers” an unexpected victory.

Less than a year later, it is difficult to locate someone in Githunguri who is willing to speak in his defence.

Since William Ruto took power, prices for everyday food items have increased. He has also come under criticism for raising funding for both his and the deputy president’s offices while reducing petrol subsidies.

Now, a plan to raise taxes on gasoline and housing is sparking the greatest backlash and this is energising an opposition whose demonstrations resulted in many street fights with police in Nairobi, the country’s capital, this year.

The measures, which are part of a draft law referred to as the finance bill, will be discussed in the parliament along with the 2023–24 budget that the finance minister will propose.

After the incident, dozens of locals gathered around reporters on the busy streets of Githunguri town to express their opposition.

Waitress Jacqueline Wambui expressed guilt over her vote for William Ruto in August. As small business owners and motorbike riders, she claimed that the promises made to them had not been fulfilled.

Fruit vendor John Nyaga, another Ruto voter, complained that the tax hikes have left his customers with even less money to spend.

The president and his allies have defended the tax increases by arguing that East Africa’s economic superpower requires more income to avoid a debt catastrophe and finance affordable housing initiatives.

Under William Ruto’s predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, expensive infrastructure projects increased overall debt to 67% of GDP, and repayments now account for nearly half of all income.

At the same time, William Ruto says he has kept his commitment to helping the underprivileged, citing the initiatives like the distribution of fertiliser to millions of farmers and a micro-loans programme called the “Hustler Fund.”

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