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Outcry In Kenya Over Tax ‘Harassment’ Of Travellers

Kenyan authorities’ decision to tax visitors on new or used products brought into the country has sparked outrage, with politicians and even a government minister condemning the proposal.

Although the Kenya Revenue Authority has stated that the directive is not new, it has caused confusion and anxiety, with some passengers reporting harassment at the airport by customs agents.

Individuals are permitted to bring in personal or home things worth $500 or less, according to a KRA post earlier this week on X, formerly Twitter.

“Anything above the amount shall be subjected to tax,” it said.

President William Ruto’s administration has imposed a slew of new levies in an attempt to replenish the government’s depleted coffers, but the measures have sparked outrage among Kenyans, who are also dealing with soaring costs and a plummeting local currency.

Tourism Minister Alfred Mutua has warned that people may be discouraged from visiting the East African country, which draws visitors from all over the world to its wildlife parks and Indian Ocean beaches.

“We harass our visitors when they come to this country, at the airport, and we wonder why they don’t come back,” he said in a video posted online by several media outlets on Wednesday.

“You go to Rwanda they don’t harass you… when you go to South Africa they don’t harass you. In Dubai, they don’t harass you.”

Senate majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot said on X that KRA searches of travelers at Nairobi’s main international airport were a “national shame” and that there should be more clarity in distinguishing between personal and business stuff.

Another senior politician, Nelson Koech, said the regulations come at a time when Kenya was still trying to restore the tourism sector, which had been affected hard by the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This is not the time to be threatening those coming to Kenya,” he was quoted by local media as saying.

According to tourism ministry estimates, the number of tourist arrivals increased to 1.54 million last year, but remained below pre-pandemic levels.

Kenya Tourism Board chair Francis Gichaba expressed optimism on Wednesday that the total will exceed two million this fiscal year, surpassing the 1.9 million recorded in 2019.

The board also stated in a statement that it aimed for 5.5 million foreign visitor arrivals by June 2028, with the sector contributing one trillion shillings ($6.6 billion) every year.

That compares with more than $2 billion in 2022.

Before Covid-19 destroyed international travel, the government reported in May of last year that tourist earnings accounted for over 10% of Kenya’s GDP.

Earlier this month, Ruto stated at a conference in Congo-Brazzaville that “no African will be required to have a visa to come to Kenya” by the end of the year, while no formal steps have been revealed.

In addition, during a climate summit in Nairobi in September, Ruto stated that Kenya was considering eliminating visa restrictions for all foreign nationals.

Written by PH

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