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NYENDE: You cannot have your cake and eat it

Saturday January 25 2014

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA Cherangany Constituency MP Wesley Korir (centre), World Marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang (left) and other athletes address the press after a meeting at University of Eldoret grounds on January 22, 2014. They said the government should not tax them for money earned while running outside the country and vowed to boycott the coming Olympics if they are taxed.

PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA Cherangany Constituency MP Wesley Korir (centre), World Marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang (left) and other athletes address the press after a meeting at University of Eldoret grounds on January 22, 2014. They said the government should not tax them for money earned while running outside the country and vowed to boycott the coming Olympics if they are taxed.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

CHARLES NYENDE
By CHARLES NYENDE
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Let’s deal with the sentimental matters first. I love our elite athletes. They give me so much pride as a Kenyan. No sporting discipline in the country has been as successful on the international arena as athletics. Go and look at the all-time leading times in the marathon and 3,000m steeplechase races for instance and you will appreciate what I am talking about.

I feel good when these athletes win at major world sporting events. They positively affect the general psyche of the nation. Winning does that.

And mark you, they really work hard for these victories - waking up at the crack of dawn, making runs that would tire a race horse and sticking on a strict diet that would shock an anorexic person, in order to become the mean gold medal-minting machines that they are.

Now, our achieving athletes have threatened to boycott major sporting events, including the Olympic Games unless the government reverses a decision to tax their earning obtained outside the country.

They say they bring pride to the country when they are winning events abroad and the government should show appreciation and encourage them more by not taxing their earnings.

Well and good, but let us consider these job situations for example. One, our school teachers, despite the harsh conditions, patiently impart knowledge to our children that will, hopefully, make them upright and productive adults.

Parents go over the moon when their children pass national exams thanks to the hard work of the pupil and teacher. The importance of teachers to the future of Kenya cannot be gainsaid.

Two, have you ever gone to, say, a major hospital and been told that the facility has closed because the medical providers have gone home to rest? I did not think so. They operate 24 hours a day. I venture doctors work some of the longest shifts in the labour market. They are in the business of saving lives and they do that every day, every time. How much more important would one be to his/her nation?

Three, what of our police? When many of us are blissfully asleep this gallant work force is risking life and limb to maintain security. Many have lost their lives trying to protect life and property. What bigger sacrifice can a human being make to a society?

I could go on. The civil servant, journalist, lawyer, truck driver, pilot, farmer, lecturer, banker, pastor, cook, or you and me?
All these people are special in their own way and are all part of the society called Kenya.

That is why I find it very selfish for a group of athletes, most likely making millions of shillings every year from their God-given talent of running, demanding exemption from paying taxes because they bring honour to this country.

I suppose the athletes can stop running for Kenya. They can even go further and stop running altogether to deny the taxman his dues, or just pay their taxes.

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