Kenyan President Ruto promises tax reform to reduce inequality

Ruto, 55, posed as the champion of the poor in the August 9 poll

Simon Maina

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Kenya‘s newly elected President William Ruto on Thursday promised to overhaul the country’s income tax system and introduce reforms that would require high earners to pay more to reduce inequality.

The 55-year-old leader, who posed as a pro-poor in the Aug. 9 poll, said in his first speech to parliament since becoming president that he intends to introduce a progressive income tax system.

“We overstrain trade and underestimate wealth,” said the businessman, who went from rags to riches, before the parliamentarians.

“I am determined and determined to ensure that our tax system is responsive to the needs of the economy,” he said.

“The economic principles of fair taxation require that the tax burden reflects ability to pay.”

Ruto also pledged to curb borrowing to boost Kenya’s economy, which is creaking under the weight of a $70 billion debt mountain.

East Africa’s most dynamic economy is facing major difficulties as around a third of the country’s roughly 50 million people live in poverty.

Prices for basic necessities have skyrocketed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and unemployment remains a major problem, particularly among young people.

Inflation rose to a 65-month high of 8.5 percent in August, while the Kenyan shilling hit a record low of around 121 shillings to the US dollar.

Ruto, who was deputy to former President Uhuru Kenyatta, had a bitter dispute with his boss during his tenure and criticized his policy of mounting debt.

Ruto cut food and fuel subsidies introduced by Kenyatta last month.

British charity Oxfam said in a report earlier this year that the two richest Kenyans own more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of the population.

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