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THE DISH: Kenyan bars could learn a new thing or two

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By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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I think Kenya has a long way to go when it comes to pubs and décor. The problem here, of course, is that Kenyans are so used to locals.

Well, let me rephrase that. It isn’t really a problem – it’ a preference.

And so, because we like the slightly grimy and accessible nature of locals, not to mention the cheap liquor, we’re never going to demand more of our bars in terms of style, for that simple reason – when the pub looks nicer, the price will go up.

I think there needs to be a meeting of both, where a bottle of beer is reasonably priced and there’s still a maintenance of a homey, comfortable feel.

I admit it – I’m not a fan of locals. They rarely have something I like to drink, and I rarely appreciate the nonchalant service – which, again, many Kenyans don’t mind (which is why we generally have such nonsense service in most places, but I’ve spoken about that in previous articles, so I’ll flog the dead horse another day).

The counter at Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The counter at Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

This week, I went to a bar in Phoenix, Arizona, called Windsor, and I really liked it. You know that kind of bar that you can see someone put thought into?

It felt like a meeting between a cigar lounge and an Irish pub – I say Irish because it had a bartender with a long red beard, an accent and a penchant for good beer.

The leather couches were thick and soft, the lighting was dim, but not too dim – enough for a good night out but not so much that you’ll lose your date.

Did I mention the music? They were playing a range of music that delighted my slightly aged heart, from Motown to Led Zeppelin.

The wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

But possibly my favourite thing about this place (outside of the blessed elbow room – don’t you hate it when you can smell what someone just ate and feel what kind of underwear they’re wearing because they’re standing so freaking close to you and there’s nowhere to breathe?) was the wall that was leading to the bathroom.

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The bathrooms are shared, and so usually there’s quite a line. On the way to the bathroom, there’s a wall that’s covered in art – specifically, old cassettes from all the wonderful genres of music that they play at Windsor, covering the wall.

I’m talking used ones, some written in felt tip pen, like the way many of us did as teenagers.

I found a Michael Jackson tape on the wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I found a Michael Jackson tape on the wall of cassettes at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The appeal of this is two-fold – one, the hit of nostalgia you get as you’re walking by looking for some of your favourite artistes (I immediately looked for and found my Michael Jackson) – and two, personally – the first radio show I ever hosted was called Cassette, on USIU Radio, because it played old school music.

It was a relaxed night – especially after I had the fish and chips with the tastiest Savoy cabbage coleslaw I have ever had. There was a touch of pepper in it that may have been what made all the difference.

The meal was good – the fries were in plenty, and the fish was a bit less than what I would have expected.

My perfectly mixed cocktail – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

My perfectly mixed cocktail – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon served at the Windsor pub in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The fries were a touch salty, to be honest – I’m not sure if that’s a prerequisite in the States, but they do, obviously, pre-salt their food a lot – just ask McDonald’s – probably because they’re saving money on condiments (at most fast food places, you have to ask for them to add tomato sauce to your meal. Go figure).

The salt was balanced out by the two perfectly mixed cocktails I had – the No. 63 – made from, among other things, Kentucky bourbon. And that’s all I’m saying about that…



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What you need to know about the Juja by-election

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The late Juja MP Francis Waititu aka Wakapee.

The Juja parliamentary seat became vacant after MP Francis Waititu succumbed to brain cancer on February 22, 2021 at MP Shah Hospital.
Waititu was elected on a Jubilee ticket during the 2017 General Election. He garnered 66,190 votes.
According to IEBC, Juja constituency has 114,761 registered voters.
The 2017 General Election had an 80 per cent voter turn-out which saw 91,801 Kenyans casting their votes in the region.  
The by-election
On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, voters in the Juja constituency will head to the polls to elect their next member of parliament.
A total of eleven candidates will square it out in the mini poll.

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Jubilee Party By-election Juja MP Nominee Susan Njeri Waititu during certificate issuance at the Party’s Headquarters in Nairobi on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Main contenders

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1. Waititu Susan Njeri – Jubilee Party
2. Ndung’u George Koimburi – Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP)
Others:
3. Mwangi Kariuki Chege – Independent
4. Kagera Eunice Wanjiru – The New Democrats (TND)
5. Kariuki Joseph Gichui –  Independent
6. Kariuki Rashid Iregi –  Independent
7. Marungo James Kariuki – Independent
8. Mburu John Njoroge – People’s Party of Kenya (PPK)
9. Ndung’u Antony Kirori – Maendeleo Chap Chap Party (MCCP)
10. Ndung’u Kennedy Gachuma – National Liberal Party (NLP)
11. Zulu Julius Thiong’o – Independent

 

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19-year-old boy charged with defiling girl three years younger

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[Courtesy]

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A 19-year-old teenager is in trouble with authorities for allegedly defiling a 16-year-old girl.
Tyson Ongaki has been charged before a Kisumu Chief Magistrate’s court and accused of intentionally defiling the minor on various dates. The crime was allegedly committed in Bomet.
The teenager who appeared before Chief Magistrate Peter Gesora however denied the offence and has been released on a Sh100,000 bond.
The court heard that after committing the offense on diverse dates between March 26, 2021 and May 14, 2021, the teenager moved to Kisumu.
He has also been charged with committing an indecent act with a minor.
An investigating officer handling the matter told the court that the suspect was arrested in Kisumu.
The magistrate directed that the matter be heard on June 15, 2021.

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KRA must ease tax filing to boost revenues

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Nikhil Hira Independent tax consultant and Director Bowmans Coulson Harney (law firm). [Courtesy]

Anyone who has been following Kenya’s budgets over the last few years will recall headlines each year saying that the country has set its largest-ever budget. 
The upcoming 2021/22 fiscal year is no exception, with Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani announcing a budget of Sh3.6 trillion – yes, the biggest ever! A little over Sh2 trillion will come from government revenues, with approximately Sh1.8 trillion of this from tax revenues. 
The balance will be borrowed – another common feature of the last few years. 
This year’s budget comes amidst an economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the inherent assumption that the pandemic will come to an end before the start of the next financial year. 
Given surges in infections that are being seen globally, and indeed in Kenya, this assumption may well be the deal-breaker. 
The Ministry of Health has already said that Kenya may see another wave of infections in July, fuelled by the Indian variant. This could result in more lockdowns with the associated impact on the economy and indeed revenue collections. The lack of vaccines is an issue that the government must address as a matter of great urgency if the country is to get through the pandemic without further economic woes. 
While deficits in government budgets are not uncommon, Kenya seems to be annually widening the gap between expenditure and revenues. 
If one applies this model to their household budget, the upshot will almost certainly be bankruptcy. 

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What is actually required is curtailing recurring government expenditures, which is something that the government has acknowledged in the past with proposed austerity measures. 
The reality is that Kenya has not succeeded in doing this, and the pressure on revenue collection is exacerbated. 
When you add to the high level of wastage and corruption we are witnessing, the deficit will almost certainly continue to widen. 
The responsibility for tax collection and enforcement lies with the Kenya Revenue Authority better (KRA). 
There is no doubt that the authority has improved significantly in this task since it was set up in 1995. 
The taxman estimates that 4.4 million tax returns were filed by June 30 last year, up from 3.6 million in the previous year.  While this is a significant improvement, when compared to the country’s population, this number of returns seems unusually low. 
The increase in the number of tax returns, is to a large extent, due to the online reporting system, iTax, and a major push by KRA through taxpayer education.
There is no doubt that the online system has made filing tax returns significantly easier and gone are the large queues of people witnessed at Times Tower on deadline day. 
That said, there is still much to be done to make filing returns a seamless and painless exercise. 
System downtime during filing periods is something that all of us will have experienced, although, in typical Kenyan fashion, we inevitably wait until the last day to file our returns as we do with most things! 
The spreadsheet that one uses to file a return is by no means the simplest to use.  One key issue seems to be that taxpayers are not alerted to changes in the model until they try to upload a return. 
The spreadsheet does not allow one to make it more relevant to their sources of income – in essence, it is too rigid and inflexible. KRA should be able to rectify this without too much effort.
Last year was unusual in that different rates of tax were applicable in the first quarter as compared to the rest of the year.  This followed the Covid-19 relief measures that were introduced in April 2020. 
There was much debate about whether the changes were meant to apply for the whole year or whether some form of apportionment was needed. 
In the end, the decision was made for apportionment. One can argue about what the correct treatment should be, but the issue was how long it took for the decision to be made and, indeed, to amend the iTax system. 
The age-old notion has always been that the more complex and difficult it is to file a tax return, the more likely it will be that taxpayers simply won’t file their returns. While the issue with the system has been resolved, there is an inherent administrative issue here that must be addressed. 
KRA has to be significantly more proactive in dealing with changes in rates and law to ensure the least inconvenience to taxpayers. 
The writer, Nikhil Hira, is the Director of Bowmans Kenya.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Bowmans Kenya  

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