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Government eyes debt swap to bail out MBC

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Government says it will make a debt swap between Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and other government ministries and departments to bail out the cash-strapped state broadcaster, which owes Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) a staggering K4.5 billion in tax arrears.

Finance minister Goodall Gondwe said in an interview the government is weighing all options in order to bail out MBC.

“We have several options on the table but I think we might just cancel the debt after a [debt) swap [deal] with other government departments and ministries,” Gondwe said.

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However, Gondwe said officials from his ministry were yet to meet and make a final decision on the matter.

MBC hit headlines two months ago when its director of news, Geofrey Kazembe, told a parliamentary committee that the K4.5 billion tax arrears are choking the state broadcasters’ operations.

The revelations came at a time when MRA was shutting down other media houses, including Times Group, for alleged non remittance of taxes obligations.

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Gondwe, however, said Treasury will look into how much other government departments and ministries owe MBC so that the MRA arrears are cancelled.

However, a tax expert at MRA said it would be illegal to cancel tax arrears.

“In Malawi, the laws do not allow for tax arrears cancellation. What Treasury can do is release the K4.5 billion to MBC for the purposes of paying off the tax arrears,” said the expert who asked not to be named.

In an earlier interview, MRA spokesperson, Steve Kapoloma, said MBC had made arrangements to be paying the arrears by instalment.

Some sections of society say MBC abuses taxpayers money by producing programmes which are always in favour of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

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