Sunday 16, September 2018 by Bloomberg

Kenyan President halves fuel tax; proposes austerity measures


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta proposed a 50 per cent reduction on an unpopular new tax on petroleum products and promised expenditure cuts across government departments.

The East African state introduced the 16 per cent value-added tax on gasoline on 1 September that it said would help raise KES 35 billion ($345.8 million) to plug a budget deficit of 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year through 30 June 2019.

“I must make a delicate balance between short-term pain with long-term gain,” Kenyatta said in televised comments. “These budget cuts ask all of us in government that we tighten our belts.”

Gasoline will retail at KES 118 per liter from KES 127 should lawmakers accept his proposals, Kenyatta said. Diesel will sell at KES 107 instead of KES 115, he said.

Kenyatta on Thursday rejected a draft law that wanted implementation of the VAT postponed by two years. The tax was initially legislated in 2013, but its introduction was blocked until 2016, and then again delayed until 2018.

Lawmakers will hold a special sitting next week to discuss Kenyatta’s proposals, according to Speaker Justin Muturi.

“A delay in implementation of the tax would compromise our ability to deliver services to Kenyans and derail the trajectory of our future,” Kenyatta said.

The reduction is a “good halfway point to appease both sides,” said Eva Wanjiku, an Africa strategist at Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Ltd., referring to the balance between raising revenue for the government, while avoiding a hike in living costs.

“It is a positive for the Eurobond market because it shows progress for revenue reform and fiscal consolidation, but we have a mixed outlook on local-currency debt performance because of the inflationary impact of the VAT and the reduction in supply pressures,” Wanjiku said.

Yields on 10-year Eurobonds fell nine basis points to 7.545 per cent by 4:57 p.m. in Nairobi, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Past plans to slash government expenditure have failed, according to Kenneth Minjire, head of equities at Nairobi-based Genghis Capital Ltd. The government announced this week that it wouldn’t renew an International Monetary Fund standby facility that is needed to reduce its budget deficit to three per cent of GDP this fiscal year.

“Austerity is a nice dream, but even that 8 per cent VAT on fuel, coupled with an increase in crude oil prices, mean a major hit on inflation, cost of production, and manufacturing has just been trying to recover,” Minjire said by phone.

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