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.
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“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.
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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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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.