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Uhuru slashes taxes in plan to ease pain of coronavirus : The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the nation from State House, Nairobi, yesterday. [Courtesy]
President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced a raft of tax cuts as the government seeks to cushion households and companies from the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tax relief options mainly target low-income earners, and include cuts in Pay as You Earn (PAYE), value-added tax (VAT), turnover tax (TOT) and corporate tax.
Those earning a gross salary of up to Sh24,000 a month will be granted full tax relief on PAYE.
Other employees will, however, benefit from a reduction in PAYE from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, after the president instructed Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to come up with a mini-Budget that should also see the levy on corporations’ profits – corporate tax – go down by a similar margin.
SEE ALSO :China virus cases spike, 17 new infections reportedLoss of income
“I recognise the anxiety that this pandemic has caused millions of Kenyan families, fearful of what the future may hold for them and their children, and the possibility of job losses and loss of income weighing heavily on their minds,” said President Kenyatta from State House yesterday.
He gave small businesses a reprieve in his proposal to reduce TOT from 3 per cent to 1 per cent. The tax was introduced in January this year for businesses whose annual gross sales are below Sh5 million.
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As the business environment slows down and workers’ job security gets uncertain, the president sought to inject more money into the economy to keep its wheels rolling.
The proposed reduction in VAT from 16 per cent to 14 per cent will be reflected in the prices of commodities, such as toilet paper, juice and shoes.
SEE ALSO :China confirms virus spreading between humansFurther, the elderly, orphans and people living with disabilities are also set to receive an additional Sh10 billion that will be disbursed through cash-transfer programmes under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.
These measures came on the back of Uhuru’s announcement that the country has registered its first fully recovered patient from Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
However, three more people tested positive for the disease, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 28.
In a televised address yesterday evening, Uhuru directed the Treasury to begin the legislative process that will see the relief measures effected from April 1.
Lenders have also been instructed to suspend the listing of individuals, entrepreneurs and corporate entities with credit reference bureaus (CRBs) if they default on their loan facilities as at April 1.
SEE ALSO :Factbox: What we know about the new coronavirus spreading in China and beyondCash flow
SMEs and private sector players are also expected to benefit from the president’s directive to public offices to settle Sh13 billion in pending bills within the next three weeks.
“Similarly, and to improve liquidity in the economy and ensure businesses remain afloat by enhancing their cash flows, the private sector is also encouraged to clear all outstanding payments among themselves within three weeks from the date hereof,” said the president.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has also been put to task to settle payments of all verified VAT refund claims owed to the private sector amounting to Sh10 billion within three weeks to improve business’ cash flow.
The government will also recruit additional healthcare workers to support the management of the spread of Covid-19, with the Treasury asked to allocate Sh1 billion from the Universal Health Coverage kitty.
SEE ALSO :Travelers to be screened for ‘Chinese’ coronavirus- GovernmentIn a speech calling for unity, the president vowed to continue with “targeted State interventions” to defeat the virus.
“If these measures are deemed to be inadequate, we shall without hesitation take even further and more drastic measures to ensure that the cardinal duty of the State, which is the protection of property and lives, is assured.”.
The measures come at a time when the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), which been doing the heavy-lifting since the country confirmed its first coronavirus case 13 days ago, revised economic growth projections for the year to 3.4 per cent from a baseline of 6.2 per cent.
It will be the slowest growth since 2009, when the size of the economy expanded by 2.7 per cent.
Already a cash-strapped Kenya has sought the financial help of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the tune Sh122 billion, which will be used to deal with the health and economic impact of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the president, his deputy and senior members of the Executive will have the voluntary option of taking a pay cut to free up funds to fight the pandemic.

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CoronavirusEconomyUhuru Kenyatta

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Broke private schools forced out of business by Covid-19 – Nairobi News

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More than 100 private schools might not resume learning when schools reopen in January 2021.

The Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) on Sunday said that most administrators of the schools have decried lack of finances to keep the schools going due to the Covid-19 pandemic and are shutting down completely.

The closure will force parents into searching for alternative schools for their children.

LAID OFF

Hundreds of employees working in private schools have also been forced to take salary cuts, ordered to take unpaid leave or laid off.

While focus has mainly been on teachers, the auxiliary staff that includes drivers, cooks, cleaners, watchmen, caregivers and finance staff have also lost their livelihoods as their services are no longer required with the learners away from school.

It is estimated that private schools directly employ about 300,000 people.

KPSA Chairperson Mutheu Kasanga said most private institutions are struggling to meet operational costs and now want the government to step in financially.

“We are not asking for free money, we are asking to be put where we can borrow at an affordable rates and repay it to help litigate this factor, just like other sectors who have been given relief and support,” Kasanga said.

ACADEMIC YEAR

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Last week, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said he was concerned that private schools are now demanding payment of fees from parents and that certain schools and parents have been haggling over the re-opening of schools and schools fees.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education shows the number of private primary schools in the country rose from 7,742 in 2014 to 16,594 last year. On the other hand, the number of public primary schools increased by only 1,728 in the same period.

Kenya’s academic year runs from January to November. Final year exams, which usually taken in October and November, have also been cancelled.

Magoha said students would repeat a year as schools had closed in mid-March, three months after the school calendar had begun.

But colleges and universities are set to reopen in September if they abide by strict guidelines.

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Kenya: Rising Lake Nakuru Water Levels Turn Homes Into Fishing Grounds

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When a group of urban poor bought a piece of land next to Lake Nakuru National Park, they had one mission: to construct permanent houses.

Nearly 200 members Muungano wa wanavijiji group settled at Barut Ward in Nakuru West and subdivided the land into small plots on which they built permanent houses.

Living a stone’s throw from the popular national park, the group enjoyed a fantastic scenery with a variety of birds and wild animals from the comfort of their homes. Save for the destructive baboons, they have lived there peacefully for many years.

However, their honeymoon came crumbling last month when Lake Nakuru water levels rose and submerged their homes. They were forced to relocate to higher grounds.

Property worth hundreds of thousands of shillings have been destroyed as several homes remain submerged in water.

And as the displaced land owners ponder their next move, the rising water level is turning out to be a blessing in disguise to some of the residents who have resorted to fishing.

“The fish business is good here,” says a woman as she serves a meal of fish and ugali to a boda boda rider.

She added: “On a good day, I can make up to Sh1,000, “I just hope the water levels will not subside soon because fish harvesting is booming and my customers are increasing by the day.”

There are fears among residents that tilapia fish species in Lake Nakuru are not good for human consumption. However, experts from Nakuru County conducted a study to establish the water quality and the presence of heavy metals in the fish from the lake. Before, only cichlid tilapia could survive in the lake.

With the rising water levels, the lake has turned into a breeding ground for four different species of tilapia like oreochromis niloticus (94.1 per cent), oreochromis variabilis (4.8 per cent), tilapia graham and oreochromis leucosticus whose presence in the lake stands at 0.5 per cent.

“Analysis for selected heavy metals of the two dominant fish species established that heavy metal concentrations in the two fish species were within the recommended Food Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization limit for fish and fish products except total chromium,” said the joint report.

“The detection of heavy metals in the fish even in small concentration may not have immediate health threats on consumers of fish and fish products from Lake Nakuru, but will likely have adverse effects if there is prolonged consumption of the fish species since heavy metals bio-accumulate,” the report added.

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