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Malawi government to review SMS, internet tax

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Government has hinted that it will review its decision to impose a 10 percent exercise duty on text messaging and all data transfers, including the internet following requests by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

Apart from the CSOs, communications regulator, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), also petitioned government asking for the same.

Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe said in an interview that although the move has attracted resistance, it is the only tax government has proposed in the 2015/2016 budget.

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He said people in the country should get used to the new era of ending donor over-dependence by generating resources locally.

Said Gondwe: “I consider this to be a transformational budget because it transforms us from 40 percent dependent on donors and we are graduating towards where we will not need them, which requires sacrifice.”

Gondwe also said although Malawians are not happy with the tax, Malawi is only one of the few countries where people enjoy cheap telephone tariffs.

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“We are one of the few countries that do not have this tax. Our neighbouring countries have it. However, we will look into it and government will make a decision that is in the best interest of Malawians,” he said.

Social commentator Billy Banda of Malawi Watch said that government will contradict its agenda of pioneering an inclusive development if it will not rescind its decision.

He said the implementation of a 10 percent tax on communication would be a retrogressive move in a troubled country like Malawi.

“Government should even consider reviewing or withdrawing the decision because it is not even in the interest of the common citizen. The issue is not in tandem with the current situation of the country,” said Banda.

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