Two MPs have asked the government to find ways of having tea, flowers, coffee and other exports reach the international market as the world fights to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suba South MP John Mbadi and his Kikuyu counterpart Kimani Ichung’wa also appealed to the National Treasury to initiate talks with lending partners with a view to having the country’s debts rescheduled as the prospect of missing revenue targets grows real with time.
The two lawmakers told the government not to adopt the wait-and-see attitude but engage Kenya’s trade partners immediately.
“We must allow cargo to fly in and out of the country. If Kenya cannot get this rolling, we will suffer greatly in terms of customs duty,” Mr Mbadi, the National Assembly Minority Leader, told the Nation.
Customs duty is an indirect tax levied on imported and exported goods. Covid-19 has seen close to 400,000 people infected worldwide, with more than 17,000 deaths.
Kenya has recorded 25 cases with no deaths. Italy is the worst affected, having recorded almost 64,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths.
Among the measures countries have taken to minimise the spread of the disease is grounding international passenger flights.
Many countries have also closed their borders. Europe is a leading market for Kenyan exports, especially flowers.
Last week, the government said this would be the last day international passenger planes would be allowed to land in Kenya.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said cargo planes would continue operating.
Mr Mbadi said the depressed demand as a result of the pandemic means the government is not making any money.
“To ameliorate the situation, small and medium enterprises need to be supported through reduced lending rates and moratoriums on the loans they are servicing,” the Suba South MP said.
Mr Ichung’wa said a stimulus package that can advance credit at reasonable rates is the way to go.
Banks should agree to take a hit “on the billions of shillings in profits they make”, he added.
“We should be talking to our bilateral and multilateral development partners for rescheduling of our public debt stock,” he said.
The Kikuyu MP said this would free the government to use its limited resources to support the economy and provide crucial services.
He said the government should also have a rescue package to boost tourism, airlines and other sectors.
“This should include tax relief and the use of an economic protection fund that will enable businesses in the affected sectors to remain afloat and retain their staff,” said Mr Ichung’wa.
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