Cotu rejects proposed Bill on foreign currency

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COTU secretary General Francis Atwoli,address press on 5th May 2023 at Solidarity house Gikomba in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The national worker’s union has condemned a proposed Bill seeking to imprison or fine persons hoarding foreign currency beyond 45 days.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions-Kenya (Cotu-K) termed the Forex Hoarding Bill, 2023 retrogressive, repressive and archaic.

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the Bill goes against principles of economic progress and investor-friendly policies. He said it will affect job creation and freedom of workers.

“We firmly believe that Kenya has evolved beyond the era where individuals were required to declare their currencies when travelling in and out of the country. The proposed Forex Hoarding Bill, 2023, if passed, would be a step backward, reminiscent of colonial-era practices that stifled individual freedoms and intimidated investment in the country,’’ said Atwoli.

The proposed Bill is sponsored by Rongo MP Paul Abuor and it seeks to criminalise the hoarding of US dollars in an effort to address the continued depreciation of the shilling against the superpower currencies.

Mr Abuor proposes a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years for individuals found guilty of hoarding foreign currency beyond their reasonable needs.

Entities found guilty of currency hoarding will pay a fine not exceeding Sh10 million or revocation of relevant license. “Individuals or entities found guilty of repeated forex hoarding offenses shall be subject to increased penalties including high fines and longer terms of imprisonment if this bill is implemented, it may lower the cost of living and alleviate some pressure from the shilling,” said Abuor.

The MP added that without interfering with market forces Kenyans cannot enjoy the luxury of unscrupulous persons purchasing US dollars for speculative purposes. He said this habit denies genuine businessmen from purchasing dollars in the local market so as to promote trade both domestically and internationally.

Atwoli said that Kenya has made significant strides in its economic development and international relations that has given birth to start-ups striving to become unicorns.

He said this is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation among Kenyans. Atwoli has appealed to Parliament to foster conducive environment for investment and economic growth.

“Cotu believes that punitive measures like those proposed in the Forex Hoarding Bill, 2023, are detrimental to investor confidence. Such measures discourage individuals and businesses from participating in international trade and currency exchange,” Atwoli.

“In today's globalised world, it is essential that we encourage the free flow of capital and support an open, flexible, and investor-friendly regulatory environment,’’ he added.

Atwoli reiterated that as COTU, they believe that Kenya should continue to embrace progressive policies that encourage investment.

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