In a highly anticipated development, the National Dialogue Committee released a comprehensive report on Saturday, August 25, following extensive bipartisan discussions between President William Ruto’s camp and opposition leader Raila Odinga’s faction.
The committee was established in August amidst weeks of anti-government protests, and over the past three months, representatives from both sides have engaged in negotiations, persisting until the final moments. The report’s presentation, initially delayed several times on Saturday, eventually took place in the evening.
The National Dialogue Committee has put forth several key recommendations. These include a 50% reduction in government travel budgets, a 30% cut in allowances for official trips, the establishment of the positions of Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, and various reforms concerning the electoral process.
Acknowledging the challenging nature of the negotiations, the committee highlights that concessions had to be made, with the central point of contention revolving around the surge in the cost of living. Kenya grapples with a severe economic crisis, marked by soaring fuel prices and escalating costs of essential goods, coupled with a depreciation of the shilling against the dollar.
While the government advocates for austerity measures, the opposition accuses it of imposing a heavy burden on Kenyan citizens, particularly through the contentious 2023 Finance Act, which introduces numerous new taxes.
The committee concedes that consensus was not achieved on several fronts. Raila Odinga’s coalition, for instance, advocates for a reduction in the VAT on fuel from 16% to 8%, as well as the cancellation of an income tax imposed to fund a housing fund. Critics have already voiced concerns about the lack of agreement on these crucial issues, asserting that the cost of living matter is not adequately addressed.