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Meru drivers: The proposed Road Maintenance Fee hike will sabotage transport sector

By Harun Mugambi

A proposed hike in the road maintenance fee in the Finance Bill 2024 has sparked a wave of discontent among drivers, who warn that the increased costs could cripple their livelihoods and exacerbate economic hardships.

The bill, currently under parliamentary consideration, seeks to raise the Road Maintenance Fee from Sh18 to Sh25, drawing sharp criticism from those who rely on the roads for their daily income.

The proposal is part of a broader fiscal strategy to offset the removal of controversial taxes on bread and cars.

Peter Mungania

Peter Mungania, a local driver based in Meru, decried the high cost of living, beseeching MPs not to approve the Finance Bill.

“Just as they addressed the bread tax, they should also reduce the Road Maintenance Fee. This increase will only burden us further,” he lamented.

Johnson Kahinga, who ferries passengers between Meru Town and Kagaene, painted a bleak picture of the potential consequences of the tax burden.

 “I carry passengers who are already struggling to afford the fare. If this bill passes, I won’t be able to maintain my vehicle or even afford basic repairs. I urge my MP Rahim not to support this bill. As a driver, these hard economic times have made it nearly impossible to sustain myself,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by a fellow driver, Silas Muriungi, who highlighted the broader impact on fuel prices.

“If the road maintenance fee is increased, it will directly affect fuel costs, driving up prices across the board. Our MPs must realize that voting for this bill is a mistake as the burden falls on us the common people. We will suffer the most from these increased taxes. As representatives of the people, MPs should voice our concerns,” he said.

The discontent has sparked plans for demonstrations, with a protest dubbed “Occupy Meru” set for tomorrow Thursday, June 20th. This follows similar demonstrations held on the streets of Nairobi, on Tuesday, where citizens opposed to the tax hike voiced their concerns.

If implemented, the proposed fee hike will significantly increase the price of such commodities as fuel. Petrol will rise from Sh189 to Sh196 per litre, diesel will increase from Sh173 to Sh180 per litre, and kerosene will jump from Sh163 to Sh170 per litre. These increases are expected to ripple through the economy, raising transportation costs and affecting the price of goods and services.

As drivers and passengers alike brace for the potential impact of these changes, the call for MPs to reconsider the bill grows louder. Many argue that the government should seek alternative measures to generate revenue without imposing further financial strain on the already struggling citizens. The drivers’ plea is clear: reduce the Road Maintenance Fee and ease the burden on those who keep the wheels of the economy turning.

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