Barclays Bank has released a detailed budget breakdown of Kenya’s estimates for the year 2018/19. This was at an event for corporate investment banking clients of Barclays with a theme of “demystifying the national budget.” and which came a few days after Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Treasury, Henry Rotich had delivered his budget speech and estimates for the year to the country’s parliament.
The Barclays budget breakdown team featured Samantha Singh a Senior Analyst – Macro Research, Barclays Africa Group, Anthony Mulisa (Regional Treasurer East Africa), Peter Mungai (Head of Tax, Barclays Kenya) and James Agin, (Corporate Investment Banking Director). Anthony Kirui the Barclays Director of Markets said that while other accountants and audits had done budget analysis that mainly looked at the tax implications, the Barclays budget breakdown would focus on macroeconomic issues that affect their clients.
Revenue Targets: The Kenya revenue estimates for 2018/19 are very bold, aiming for Kshs 1.9 trillion of domestic revenue, which is 40% more than last year. This is premised on a projected GDP growth for Kenya this year of 5,8%, but which Barclays expects will be at 5.5%.
Tax Increases: Some new measure include import duties on iron, steel, oils, excise duties on money transfers sugar, private vehicles, and revised capital gains taxes, withholding taxes and business permit taxes. The Barclays team said that the income tax bill 2018 replaces some 1974 legislation that has not kept pace with time also changes the VAT act, and stamp duty acts.
The budget also moves several items from being zero-rated to be exempt, which means that suppliers are prohibited from claiming refunds and this will result in higher costs of products will be passed on to consumers. Also value added tax (VAT) on fuel products kick in from September 2018, while Kerosene taxes will also go up to match those of petrol.
While the CS mentioned reconsidering the 35% income tax on individuals, he was silent on that of corporations which are now likely to go to 35%, the highest in East Africa. The Barclays team said that Parliament needs to critically look at this, as the average corporate income tax rate across Africa is at 28%, while globally it is 25%. Also, the modalities of a new 0.05% excise duty on financial transfers of more than Kshs 500,000 ($5,000) need to be clarified.
Managing Deficits: Kenya’s deficits have been widening and this is due to lower revenues and higher expenditure, especially of recurrent items. Still, the government targets to reduce the fiscal deficit from 7.2% to 5.7% of GDP. The fiscal deficit is about Kshs 600 billion for 2018-19 is quite large; which the government plans to finance it with a mix of domestic and external finance, but Singh said it will be more difficult for Kenya and other African economies to get Euro Bonds as US interest rates are rising.
She said debt was not necessarily bad, but it was more about where the money went, which should be towards development, but not for recurrent expenditure or to defend currencies. The team was also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget while development expenditure is 25% of the budget.
Barclays expect foreign exchange reserves to remain adequate but that with an IMF facility ending in September, Singh said that international investors would want to see Kenya affiliated with IMF and have some standby assistance (even though the IMF is not popular), or it will be hard for them to continue to finance the fiscal deficit.
Debt & Development: The Barclays team was concerned that 4 out of every 10 shillings raised this year will go to pay for debt, and they were also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget. They noted that two years ago, 33% of the budget was going to development; now it is down to 25% and that is still going to come under more pressure as public salaries and recurrent expenditure goes up unless the government strengthens its public finance management, ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes, cut waste & corruption, and ropes in a large part of the population who are not making a fair contribution – and the team opined that if these three measures were achieved, the budget’s ambitious targets would be met and this could even enable future tax cuts.
Local Industry & Manufacturing Support: The Kenya government plans to grow manufacturing’s share of GDP from 9% to 15%. This will be enabled by raising customs taxes on iron, steel, textiles, footwear in order to promote local industries by protecting them from cheap imports. The government has also come up with offer off-peak electrical energy schemes at lower tariff’s to encourage businesses to manufacture over 24-hours.
Interest Rate Caps: In his budget speech last week, the CS Treasury requested a repeal of interest rate caps and the Barclays team was hopeful that would be approved by Parliament, saying that the cap had resulted in unintended consequences that were detrimental to the credit sector – with small businesses being unable to access bank credit and that t had also complicated monetary policy decision making.
Financial Behaviour: The team also discussed a draft financial markets conduct bill that was recently introduced as one of the alternative solutions to the interest caps and which is now going through public participation. They said that Barclays had given feedback on the bill which is likely to increase the cost of regulation through double licensing, and which is unclear on who it protects. They said that the bill borrows from Western countries where there was aggressive credit expansion to people who should not have been borrowing, whereas here it is the opposite situation of there being too little credit.
Conclusion: The budget breakdown is a part of a series of sessions that Barclays will have on topical issues that impact their corporate clients, and another session will take place in Mombasa.