MPs ready to resume sittings to discuss Covid-19 crisis, says Duale

National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale has said that MPs are ready to resume sittings to discuss the economic measures to cushion the country from the impacts coronavirus outbreak.

The Garissa Town MP said that as witnessed in other countries where governments have resorted to lockdowns; Kenya may also be forced to take drastic measures to prevent further spread of the virus.

According to Duale, most Kenyans depend on Small and Medium-Sized (SMEs) businesses which have to be protected.

“We anticipate a massive disruption in businesses where employees are forced to work from home. Our economy is literally driven by SME’s that absorb most of the workforce and any disruption shall have a major negative impact on the economy,” Duale posted on his Twitter page on Wednesday.

“The National Assembly is ready to be recalled back to facilitate any legislative proposal towards saving the economy from total collapse,” he added.

The legislator argued that the government should come with more measures to prevent the economy from taking a hit. He referred to the economic measures taken by other countries such as USA, France, Australia and many others, which have also been hit by the bug.

Duale noted: “Countries all over the world have put in place Stimulus package to cushion the Economy from this scourge that portends to bring the world economy to its knees. US have set aside 1 trillion Dollars, France USD 45 billion, Australia $17.6B and New Zealand $12.1B targeting mostly businesses and affected employees.”

Should the House resume sittings, the MP has listed various steps that the government could use to prevent the economy from collapse. One of them includes the establishment of government bonds.

“Establish a stimulus package (SP) Fund to be funded by reassigning the budget and/or Establishing a Long Term Government Bonds say 50 – 70-year yields targeting blue-chip companies like Safaricom, KBL, BAT, and Banks,” he stated.

He has also recommended that the banks could wave interests on “all commercial loans particularly the hire purchase scheme, SME and other vulnerable groups.’’

The other proposal is for the Kenya Revenue Authority to revise tax policies and help the taxpayers forced to plan on dwindling income to cope with the scourge.
“KRA to waive taxes mainly income tax and revise the VAT due to anticipated rising costs of goods and services as a result of weakening shilling and due to no salaries to self-isolated staff working from home,” he said.

Duale has also urged the government to approach external lenders to assist with the provision of medical equipment. This he said should extend to entities like the Chinese government, the IMF and World Bank.

The government has been exploring fiscal policies to enable borrowers to access funds from the banks during the crises at friendly terms. On March 19, 2020, Central bank of Kenya Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge announced that banks had allowed borrowers to extend their repayment period over the crisis.

“Specifically, banks will review requests by borrowers to extend their loans for a period of one year,” the governor said.

“If you are getting difficulties because of the pandemic directly or indirectly, you can go to your bank and discuss how you can extend the repayment period for at least a year.”

He further warned of possible job losses urging Kenyans to brace for a possible difficult period.

“There could be instances where people will lose jobs and may not have the cash flow to support loan repayments. All personal loans that were current on March 2 will be eligible for this consideration,” he said.

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