Kenya’s parliament approves retaining interest rate cap against IMF wishes

Lawmakers also voted to delay a proposed 16 percent tax on petroleum products for two more years, citing the high cost of living — a move that will be a blow to government efforts to raise revenues through higher taxes.

The rate cap, introduced in September 2016, was aimed at helping small traders access capital at affordable rates, but has had the opposite effect, with banks saying they cannot price risk to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) properly while the cap is in place. As a result lending to the private sector fell from 9.3 percent in 2016 to 2.4 percent last year.

“Many thousands of Kenyans have been unable to access bank lending and have turned to more expensive borrowing,” said Aly Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent trader and analyst.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said in April that he recognised the limitation of the law and hoped that the finance bill will remove the cap that he said had ended up hurting the financial sector

Some bank stocks at the Nairobi Securities Exchange edged lower on Thursday, after the Finance Bill was passed.

“It was not widely expected, people were banking on repealing of the interest cap,” said Sheema Shah, equities dealer at Apex Africa. “It’s still a buy, the current sell-off is temporary…mostly its the foreign investors who are heavy on that particular stock who are selling off.”

In June, Finance Minister Henry Rotich proposed repealing the interest rate cap, a move cheered by bankers. But lawmakers have continued to insist they are not ready to remove the upper limit of commercial lending rates at 4 percentage points above the central bank rate. Lawmakers did, however, remove the minimum deposit rate of 70 percent of the central bank rate. Reuters

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