The National Assembly’s plan to speed up debate on tax breaks that President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled last week to ease the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and workers is a step in the right direction.
However, the government is not yet clear on how poor Kenyans, mostly casual workers, stand to benefit from the measures outlined, especially those who have to stay at home without work following the closure of some businesses such as in the hospitality sector.
The measures aimed at cutting costs for businesses and ensuring workers have some reprieve may not have the desired effects if the supply chain of goods and services grinds to a halt due to limited working hours.
Most businesses, especially manufacturers may have to align production with the curfew hours, which is likely to result in a drop in output and reduce pay for the casual workers who have to leave earlier to be in their homes by 7pm.
Fewer goods in the market may in some cases result in high prices even as the government plans to cut the value-added tax.
To avoid rendering the well-intended measures counterproductive, we urge the State and industry stakeholders to come up with measures that would be a win-win for businesses and workers as well as efforts to tame the coronavirus.
Also, the lawmakers should consider setting a clear time frame within which the employers should implement these measures to avoid creating unnecessary conflict and disrupting industrial harmony.
The measures outlined should just be a start in mitigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Kenya’s economy.
The government should continue engaging other stakeholders to ensure that measures put in place reflect the unfolding reality on the ground.
So far, we laud the government for its effort to ensure that the fight against the pandemic does not disrupt provision of essential goods and services.
As stated by Health minister Mutahi Kagwe, the battle against the spread of the Covid-19 disease is not a government affair but will need all of us to join hands and make the necessary sacrifices to win the war on the virus.