The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has put forth a series of prerequisites for extending their support to President William Ruto’s Housing Fund initiative. In a press briefing on June 1st, Collins Oyuu, the Secretary General of KNUT, outlined a more efficacious strategy that President Ruto could have adopted to generate widespread acceptance and participation in the project.
Oyuu stressed the significance of comprehensive public involvement as a means to cultivate greater consensus among the population regarding the proposed 3 percent salary contribution. He underscored the need for extensive public engagement to ensure a heightened level of approval for the initiative.
According to Oyuu, the government’s approach thus far has lacked a well-defined plan. President Ruto has frequently addressed the fund in his public appearances, while Cabinet Secretaries and their principal secretaries have also been actively promoting the contentious project. Notably, Charles Hinga, the Housing Principal Secretary, has emerged as one of the project’s most vocal advocates.
As the project remains in the proposal stage, various sectors have contributed their perspectives, resulting in shifts in the government’s position. These revisions have involved transitioning from a tax to a levy, altering the contribution from mandatory to voluntary, offering savings refunds for those uninterested in acquiring a house after a seven-year period, and adjusting the fixed 3 percent contribution to a maximum of Ksh2,500. Collins Oyuu of KNUT has joined the discourse, urging for further clarification.
“On the matter of the housing levy, our demand was centered around the idea of facilitating a dialogue where we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the levy. It is crucial to prioritize public participation,” Oyuu articulated.
“We need transparent insights into the specifics of the levy, how we can address it, and how we can communicate its intricacies to our members. We deserve a comprehensive account of the developments,” he added.
Oyuu argued that it was impractical for the President to expect a salary deduction from individuals like boda boda riders and mama mbogas who lack regular payslips.
“Simply instructing hawkers and boda boda riders to reject the Finance Bill without providing them with adequate information is futile,” he remarked.
Oyuu highlighted instances where public participation had effectively influenced public opinion on various projects. However, on May 12th, the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) rejected the fund, stating that their members already possessed homes.
The KUPPET Embu branch specifically contended that its members raised livestock, including goats, cows, and pigs, and therefore saw little incentive in investing in the high-rise apartments proposed by Ruto.
While the Central Organisation Trade Union (COTU), led by labor leader Francis Atwoli, expressed support for the Housing Fund, the Media Owners Association disapproved, citing concerns that the proposed contribution would significantly diminish employees’ take-home salaries.
“As employers, the media companies in this country harbor apprehensions about this proposal. Employees already shoulder a considerable tax burden, along with contributions to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF),” expressed Agnes Kalekye, chairperson of the Media Owners Association, on Tuesday, May 30th.
Nevertheless, President Ruto remains steadfast in his belief that the project will provide housing opportunities for low- and middle-income Kenyans.
“We must not fail to undertake this program, as it offers employment prospects for the countless young individuals graduating from our educational institutions,” Ruto explained on May 11th.