WORLD OF FIGURES: Why only registered taxpayers should vote in elections

Saturday July 15 2017

An IEBC clerk keys in a voter’s ID details during the Biometric Voter Registration exercise at St. Teresa's Girls Secondary School in Nairobi on November 20, 2012. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | FILE

An IEBC clerk keys in a voter’s ID details during the Biometric Voter Registration exercise at St. Teresa's Girls Secondary School in Nairobi on November 20, 2012. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MUNGAI KIHANYA
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On Saturday last week I posted this on Twitter: “There are 2.1 million registered taxpayers in Kenya. There are 19.6 million registered voters in Kenya.”

The tweet spread quite fast and elicited a variety of responses. At the time of writing this article (Wednesday), it had been viewed by over 22,000 people – that’s a very large number considering that I have just 3,500 followers!

The message has been copied on other Internet social media, gone half-way round the Earth and come back to the origin.

A close relative forwarded it to me via WhatsApp and asked whether the information was correct. She didn’t know that I was the source!

 Well, the electoral body has 19.6 million names on the voters’ roll and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) received returns from 2.4 million people by the end of June 30, 2017. The 2.1 million mentioned in the tweet was the number announced on June 29.

Different people made varied conclusions from these numbers. Some said that the figures show the high level of unemployment is in Kenya. Others concluded that it is proof of the high level of tax evasion in the country. Another lot said that KRA was sleeping on the job of recruiting taxpayers.

My view is that these figures (only 12 per cent of voters are taxpayers) explain why we have such a high level of wastage and theft of public resources by public officials. It is because our gatekeepers are all largely voted in by people who do not contribute to the national kitty.

In my opinion, this is a fundamental flaw in the one-man-one-vote electoral democracy. I think we should change it so that on those registered as taxpayers should be allowed to vote – barring, of course, companies, societies and other corporate entities.

We should even go a step further and give additional votes based on the amount of tax one has paid during the preceding parliamentary term; say, one additional vote for every Sh10,000 paid in the five years before an election.

This would make the national election similar to a company or Sacco. In companies, for example, shareholders are assigned votes equal to the number of shares they own. But then there is an argument that everybody pays Value Added Tax (VAT) when they purchase goods and services; so everyone is a taxpayer. That reasoning is fundamentally flawed! The fact that you buy things is proof that you have an income and anybody who has an income is supposed to paay tax. If you don’t, then you are a tax-evader and you shouldn’t get the right to vote. After all, those who pay income tax also pay VAT!

In the mid-1700s, Americans coined the phrase “no taxation without representation” as they agitated for independence from Great Britain. After 250 years, we should turn this around and demand “no representation without taxation.”

 

www.figures.co.ke   Twitter: @mungaikihanya