EAST AFRICAN BUSINESS COUNCIL BRIEF MATRIX ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE MEASURES TAKEN BY EAC PARTNER STATES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

 

EAST AFRICAN BUSINESS COUNCIL BRIEF MATRIX ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE MEASURES TAKEN BY EAC PARTNER STATES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 - Issued 30th March 2020

MONETARY AND FISCAL POLICY MEASURES:

 

Partner States

Area of intervention

Measures taken

Implication

 

Kenya

Monetary Policy

ü  Lowering the Central Bank Rate (CBR) from 8.25 percent to 7.25 percent

ü  Reducing the Cash Reserve Ration (CRR) from 5.25 percent to 4.25 percent

ü  Releasing KES35.2 billion as additional liquidity availed to banks to directly support borrowers that are distressed as a result of COVID-19

ü  Flexibility to banks on requirements for loan classification 

ü  Provision for loans that were performing as at March 2, 2020 and whose repayment period was extended or were restructured due to the pandemic

 

 

This will mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 on Kenya's economy and more importantly to the financial sector. The policy actions will definitely boost liquidity in the market as well as support commercial banks with cash which they can lend to various borrowers. This will make loans accessible and available to private-sector borrowers at lower lending rates. Also, the policy actions will give incentives to banks to avoid increasing lending rates.

 

Similarly, lowering the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) to 4.25 percent from 5.25 percent is expected to provide additional liquidity of Ksh. 35 Billion to commercial banks in an effort to directly support borrowers that are distressed as a result of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Commercial Banks transactions

ü  Commercial Banks to provide relief to borrowers on their loans due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

ü  Commercial Banks to provide a one-year relief period on personal loans (include mobile money borrowers). The relief will also apply to mobile money borrowers.

ü  Banks to make it possible for Micro and Small Media Enterprise (MSME’s) and corporate borrowers to contact their banks so that they can assess and restructure their loans based on special circumstances that have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic;

ü  Commercial Banks to bear the cost required to extend and restructure loans during the time of COVID-19 pandemic;

ü  Banks to waive all charges for balance inquiries

 

Given the fact that about 28 percent of lending in Kenya comprises of personal loans, these reliefs and measures will significantly cushion Kenyans against the impact of the COVID-19.

The relief will ensure liquidity in the market and keep businesses with the majority being MSMEs afloat during this difficult time of COVID-19 pandemic. With an estimated contribution of about 70%, the relief for MSMEs will have a multiplier effect on the economy of Kenya.

 

 

Use of mobile money transfers

ü  Zero charges for the mobile transactions of up to Kshs 1,000;

ü  Increasing the transaction limit to Kshs 150,000 (USD1447.730;

ü  The mobile money wallet limit and daily transactions limit is placed at Kshs300,000 (USD 2895.46);

ü  Removing monthly transactions limit, and eliminating the transfers between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.

 

Encourage Kenyans to use digital channels and contactless mobile payments. These measures will not only strengthen efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 but also sustain the payment of transactions even during the lockdown.

 

Tax relief

100 percent tax relief for persons earning a gross monthly income of up to Ksh24,000

Lower-income earners in Kenya will have additional net income which will cushion them against the impact of COVID-19. The increased disposable income will give some relief to low earners in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

 

PAYE

Reduction of Income Tax Rate (Pay-As-You-Earn-PAYE) from 30% percent to 25% percent.

 

The net salary of employees will be increased which in turn will enable workers to have extra money to spend during this outbreak. This is a big relief to Kenyan employees during adversity caused by the pandemic

 

Corporation Tax

Reduction of Resident Income Tax (Corporation Tax) from 30 percent to 25 percent

The 5 percent reduction of Corporation tax to businesses will cushion companies and businesses against lack of liquidity. The funds saved from not paying 5% corporate tax can be used by companies to sustain their businesses and boost their working capital

 

Turnover tax

Reduction on the turnover tax rate from current 3 percent to 1 percent for all Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

 

The 2% reduction of the turnover tax rate to MSMEs will provide small businesses with critical funds at this time of economic distress. The money saved from not paying 2% turnover tax can be used by MSMEs to keep businesses afloat.

 

Value Added Tax

Reduction of VAT from 16 percent to14 percent, effect April 1, 2020

The reduction of VAT by 2% will have a significant impact on the entire economy given the fact that VAT is a consumption tax paid by final consumers. The reduction of VAT rate by 2% can cushion consumers against higher prices of goods and services. This will contain inflationary pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Value Added Tax Refund claims

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) shall expedite the payment of all verified VAT refund claims amounting to Ksh10 billion within 3 weeks; or in the alternative, allow for offsetting of withholding VAT, in order to improve the cash flows for businesses.

This will be a big relief to producers of goods and services since delaying in payment of refunds has a negative impact on businesses as it ties up the working capital of businesses. Similarly, these funds will provide liquidity to the businesses and beef up their working capital to enable producers to sustain their businesses during this distressing period of COVID-19 pandemic

 

Listing with Credit Reference Bureaus

Temporary suspension of the listing with Credit Reference Bureaus (CRB) of any person, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) and corporate entities whose loan account fall overdue or is in arrears, effective 1st April, 2020

This will be a big relief to various borrowers in Kenya whose loan accounts were overdue or in arrears by 1st April 2020. This will also give borrowers some time to handle their loans without much pressure from lending institutions.

 

Verified Pending Bills

All Ministries and Departments shall cause the payment of at least Ksh13 billion of the verified pending bills, within three weeks from the date hereof

There will be an improvement in the liquidity in the economy. Businesses that will be paid the verified pending bills will remain afloat given the new cash flow in the market. The Ksh 13 billion will have spill over effects to other businesses as paid businesses will be able to continue to conduct businesses with other private sector entities

 

Orphans, Elderly and Vulnerable Groups

Appropriation of an additional Ksh10 billion to elderly, orphans and other vulnerable members of society through cash-transfer by Ministry of labour and Social Protection, to cushion them from the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

 

This will positively impact the targeted group in terms of remaining afloat during this Covid-19. However, there will be spill over effect to other groups and the economy at large as the money will be released to the market.

Recruitment of additional health workers

Ksh1 billion from the Universal Health Coverage kitty, be immediately appropriated strictly towards the recruitment of additional health workers to support in the management of the spread of COVID-19

This will directly boost the combat of COVID-19 in Kenya. In addition, the new employed workers will definitely have a positive economic impact on Kenya’s economy as consumers of goods and services.

 

Voluntary reduction of salaries for the Executive arm of government

In trying to look for funds to combat COVID-19 pandemic the President of Kenya has announced a voluntary reduction in the salaries of the senior ranks of the National Executive with immediate effect.

ü  The President and Deputy President -80 percent

ü  Cabinet Secretaries & Chief Administrative Secretaries -30 percent

ü  Principal Secretaries -20 percent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will enable the Government to have extra funds that can be directed in fighting against COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.

According to EABC analysis from available data, these voluntary contributions from the Senior ranks and Executives in Kenya will generate approximately KSH 628,493,266.2 as a contribution to combat COVID-19. This is based on a period of 3 months of salaries.

 

The list of senior Officials and Executive are hereto attached as ANNEX I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONETARY AND FISCAL POLICY MEASURES:

 

Partner States

Area of intervention

Measures taken

Implication

 

Uganda

 

Exceptional liquidity assistance

Bank of Uganda to provide exceptional liquidity assistance for one year to financial institutions and waive limitations on restructuring credit facilities of financial institutions that may be going into distress.

This is meant to strengthen the banking institutions to remain afloat amidst this stalemate as few borrowers will be able to pay back their loan obligations. Therefore, with this intervention, the financial institutions are unlikely to go into financial distress and the business community can still continue to borrow

 

Foreign Exchange Market

Intervention in the forex market to smoothen out excess volatility arising from the global financial markets.

 

The dollar is managed at levels that can allow the business community to continue importing hence avoiding a spike in commodity prices.

Insolvency

Mechanism to minimize the likelihood of sound business going into insolvency due to lack of credit.

The Central bank realizes that businesses need credit to finance their investments and remain solvent.

Therefore, this facility/mechanism assures the business community that the central bank will avail credit to finance their investments and thus avoid going into distress.

 

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and commercial banks

Reduce fees on mobile money transactions and digital payment charges to limit the use of cash and bank branch visits.

 

Increase daily transaction and wallet size limits for mobile money limits

 

The public has been cautioned against the use of paper money as well as coins given the health risks associated with the spread of the Coronavirus.

Thus, the intervention by the central bank to reduce fees on mobile money transactions and increasing wallet-size limits encourage digital payments which then reduces the risk of infections.

 

Filing of returns

Taxpayers whose accounting date is in September and are unable to file Corporation tax returns by 31st March 2020, have been granted an extension to file returns for a period of 2 months up to May 2020. All penalties related to the late submission shall be remitted if the filing of returns is done on or before 31st May 2020.

Taxpayers whose returns for March, 2020 are due by the 15th of April 2020 and are unable to file, are granted an extension to file for a period up to 30th April 2020 and these relate to; Value Added Tax, Pay as You Earn, Local Excise Duty and Withholding Tax.

 

Businesses which will not be able to meet their tax filing obligations as per the period specified in the law, now have a relief to pay as per the new extended period specified that takes into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on businesses

Payment of taxes under instalment arrangement

 

Tax Payers who have Memoranda of Understandings (MOU) and who have payments due in months of March and April 2020 will have the option to defer and reschedule these payments. The payments will resume during the month of May

There are some members of the business of the business community who have memoranda of understanding with the Uganda Revenue Authority. According to this new measure, they have been given 2 additional months to resume their payments due to the impact of COVID-19

 

Border stations

 

All customs border stations shall remain open to facilitate movement of cargo subject to the customs laws and guidelines

Borders have remained open to clear only cargo trucks and limited to three persons crossing with cargo including the truck driver. This is meant to ensure there is a seamless flow of goods amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The business community is therefore still able to trade and supply the much-needed merchandise across the region including essential goods

Customs Ware Houses

 

All customs warehouses will remain functional to allow clearance of cargo subject to the customs guidelines

Warehouses are critical in providing storage of cargo prior to shipment/ clearance. The new measures imply that these will remain open to ensure this doesn’t disrupt business

 

 

 

 

MONETARY AND FISCAL POLICY MEASURES:

 

Partner States

Area of intervention

Measures taken

Implication

 

Rwanda

 

Extension of Lending Facility

The National Bank of Rwanda has put in place a liquidity window to allow the banks to continue serving their customers.

To facilitate the private sector borrowers, a fund close to $52 million has been earmarked to bridge liquidity challenges and commercial banks can access this facility at the central bank rate.

 

The stimulus whose beneficiaries include individuals, SMEs and large corporates regardless of their sector of operation, is meant to relax measures on loans and giving clients some room to breathe, given that the crisis does not go beyond six (6) months

Lowering Reserve Ratio

Lowering the requirement ratio from 5% to 4% to allow banks more liquidity to support affected businesses.

Normally, the central bank maintains a range of liquidity facilities such as intra-day liquidity facility, overnight lending facility, reverse repo for seven days and refinancing facility for seven days which ensures than tanks can lend.

 

Effective April 1, BNR is expected to lower the reserve requirement ratio from 5% to 4% to allow banks more liquidity to support affected businesses

 

This will increase liquidity by up to Rwf 26 billion, effectively increasing funds available for lending to the economy.

 

Review of Treasury Bonds

For the next six months, BNR has offered to buy back bonds at the prevailing market rate. The regulator also reduced the waiting period if one fails to sell the bond at the secondary market from the current 30 days to 15 days.

 

Money will flow from the Central Bank to individual banks leading to increased borrowing, hence there will be increased money circulation in the economy for the producers and consumers to use.

 

Restructuring Loans

The Central Bank anticipates that customers with huge loans would face challenges in servicing those loans thus creating liquidity problems to the banks. This is why banks are allowed to engage their customers and re-negotiate terms especially to those with outstanding loans facing temporary cash flow challenges arising from the pandemic

 

Restructuring these debts will mean making lower repayments each month, freeing up cash for running businesses and avoiding closure, and consolidating existing debts could mean that one pays a lower interest rate overall, reducing the cost of finance to your business from outstanding loans.

 

Mobile Money Transfers

Charges have been removed on P2P transactions (sending money from one person to another). This is in a bid to encourage the public to use “cashless means of payment”. The limit for individual transfers using mobile money wallets has been increased from Rwf 500,000 to Rwf1.500,000 for Tier I customers and from Rwf 1million to Rwf 4million for Tier II customers.

 

Digital channels and contactless mobile payments are efforts aimed at limiting the risk of transmission of Corona Virus through handling cash and other non-virtual means of payment for the next three months and effective from March 19th, 2020. However, projects that require huge disbursements will be affected in terms of operation and rollout deadlines

Extension of Tax Declaration Deadline

Taxpayers were supposed to declare corporate income tax for 2019 by 31st March, 2020. Businesses are also obliged to declare their Value Added Tax (VAT), Pay as You Earn (PAYE), Excise Tax as well as pension contribution on the 15th of every month. However, following the COVID-19 lockdown, business operators expressed that this is likely to be impossible due to the lack of business activity.

To take care of the concerns, the Rwanda Revenue Authority has extended the deadline for filing and paying income tax for large taxpayers to 15th April 2020 and 30th of April 2020 for small and medium enterprises. Rwanda Revenue Authority also announced the suspension of the 25% down payment for outstanding tax admissible for amicable settlements

Taxpayers will have a grace period to prepare declarations for returns to avoid penalties and the suspension of the 25% tax admissible for amicable settlements is a relief to taxpayers. This will act as savings to offset the loss brought about by limited revenue collections in this period of the pandemic

Certification of Financial Statements

Businesses that are required to certify their financial statements but may not have finalized certification by the due date, will be required to declare and pay profit tax for 2019 based on the financial statements not yet certified. The certification of financial statements has been extended up to 31st May, 2020

 

This will waive off relief to taxpayers on the cost of hiring external consultants responsible for certifying the financial statements

Halting Comprehensive and Post Clearance Tax Audits

Rwanda Revenue Authority halted all comprehensive tax audits and post-clearance audits to reduce pressure and physical interaction with taxpayers for a period of one month. Only desk audits will go ahead as planned

 

The is reduced time lost with Rwanda Revenue auditors, hence more time created for conducting business. Reduced chances of contracting the COVID-19 virus due to non-physical interactions with people

OTHER MEASURES TAKEN BY EAC PARTNER STATES:

 

Burundi

Mandatory quarantine

Burundi will quarantine for 14 days all travelers arriving from the EU and countries most affected by the coronavirus including China and Iran, suspending all international flights effective from 25th March 2020 except cargo flights whose crew must observe strict guidelines,

 

All travellers from countries most affected by Covid 19 as listed will undergo mandatory quarantine of 14days.

Additionally, there will no international passenger arrivals in Burundi therefore travellers will have to wait for new guidelines to be issued.

As of March 17, passengers from the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, or others who have stayed in those countries for 14 days and are coming to Burundi, will be quarantined to prevent the coronavirus spread.

Passengers from the listed countries will be placed under isolation for 14 days and therefore need to plan for their travel accordingly

Limited public gatherings

Any public gathering will be in violation of the guidelines issued by the government

Kenya

 

Travel

All international flights suspended apart from cargo flights.

There will be no international travel for passengers is until further notice

 

 

Mandatory quarantine

All persons who violate quarantine measures to be quarantined forcefully at their own expense and later charged.

Any violation of quarantine measures will be charged according to the law

Social gatherings

All bars closed until further notice. Restaurant to remain open but only have taken away services 

This is meant to promote social distancing that limits the spread of the infections.

All public service vehicles must adhere to the directive issued on Friday (March 20th) failure time which respective Sacco license will be revoked 

The government has suspended all churches, mosques gatherings; funerals are restricted to family members only (Restricted to 15). Weddings not allowed. Any form of gathering even within the streets also not allowed

Public transport

The National Police Service to enforce the National Health Act, the outlined matatu regulations and quarantine. The police will support NGAO in the enforcement of various outlined measures

Matatus will be guidelines for their operations with enforcement in place

Rwanda

 

Travel

Closure of commercial flights to and from Rwanda for an initial period of 30 days

There will be no international travel for passengers for a period of 30 days

Social gathering

Closure of Schools and Higher Institutions of Learning for an initial period of 14 days

 

This is meant to promote social distancing that limits the spread of the infections.

 

Prohibition of unnecessary movements and visits outside homes

Working from home

All employees (public and private) to work from home

Social gatherings

Closure of shops, markets and bars. Restaurants and cafes may only provide take away services

Electronic payments

Use of electronic payments and online banking services encouraged

 

Borders

All borders closed except for goods, cargo and Rwandan citizens returning but subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated locations

All borders will be closed with a few exceptions as listed.

Mandatory quarantine of 14 days applies to all.

Local Travel

 Travel between different and districts of the country is not permitted

Local village to village movements at country level are not allowed

Motorcycles not permitted to carry passengers but may offer delivery services

No public transport except for delivery services.

South Sudan

 

Social gatherings

Banned major public events (public gatherings, sporting events, religious meetings and political events).

This is meant to promote social distancing that limits the spread of the infections.

Essential commodities supply and food security during lockdown

Ministry of Finance and Planning to facilitate suppliers by providing hard currency to commercial banks through Bank of South Sudan to purchase essential commodities such as food items, fuel, medicines and medical products. This will be regulated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

This is to ensure that there are adequate supplies for the population during the lockdown.

Mandatory quarantine

Self-quarantine of all senior government officials who have just arrived from countries with established local infection and transmission of COVID-19

All travellers from countries most affected by Covid 19 as listed will undergo mandatory quarantine of 14days.

 

Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travellers arriving in South Sudan from affected countries and areas with established local transmission will be self-quarantined for 14 days.

Non-essential travels to affected countries must be called off or postponed to a later date.

Non-essential travels are to be postponed

Ordered restrictions on the movement of people, including declining to issue new visas, revoking visas and resident permits, and denial of admission at ports of entry

Tanzania

 

Testing centres

Identification of the main testing Centres

There are testing centers of Covid-19 that have already been set up by the government in various regions of the country.

Social gatherings

Avoidance of public gatherings and unnecessary travels including conferences, ceremonies, concerts, political campaigns and sports events.

This is meant to promote social distancing that limits the spread of the infections

Closure of all secondary schools and higher education institutions for 30 days effective from March 17

Ongoing initiatives and campaigns to educate the public on preventive measures

Banning prison visits

Travel

No restrictions on incoming flights

International flights are still allowed to operate

Borders

All borders are operational

Tanzanian borders are still open to both cargo and passengers

Mandatory quarantine

14 days mandatory isolation for all international arrivals at their own cost

All travellers to Tanzania will undergo mandatory quarantine of 14days.

 

Travel for public servants

International Travels have been banned for public servants 

No public servant is allowed travel

Uganda

 

Travel

Prohibit all in-coming passengers whether by air, land or water except for cargo

There is total lockdown for any person entering Uganda except for cargo

Court hearings

Court hearings and appearances suspended for at least 32 days with effect from 20th March

This is meant to promote social distancing that limits the spread of the infections

Social gatherings

All schools, Universities and other Tertiary institutions closed

All religious gatherings suspended

Political and cultural public meetings

Wedding gatherings suspended, except if small numbers involved

Discos, bars, concerts suspended

Public transport banned

Funerals to be regulated

All schools, Universities and other Tertiary institutions closed