The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament is adamant on the complete scraping off of the Short Message Service (SMS) and internet 10 percent tax regime, arguing Malawians have already started feeling the pinch of the regulation.
Both Pac chairperson Alekeni Menyani and his deputy Kamlepo Kalua expressed optimism in separate interviews that during the mid-year budget review expected to be conducted six months after the passing of the national budget, the SMS and internet tax regime will be revisited.
Government found itself at the receiving end of a great deal of criticism following Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe’s announcement that tax would be introduced on SMS and internet to partly finance the recently approved national budget.
Gondwe rejected all calls to have the tax provision scraped off even when there were reports that Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa had written the Finance Minister, warning him against introducing the tax rule.
In an interview on Sunday, Menyani said it remains illogical to introduce tax on SMS and internet – with the result being the raising of tariffs for the services – at a time when Malawians are already complaining that mobile service rates are high.
“We are in the digital generation and internet is no longer a luxury for this generation. In the villages, people are using SMSs to send different crucial messages like in cases of funerals. Thus, the tax on these services is retrogressive.
“We believe all is not lost yet. We hope the Minister of Finance will swallow humble pie and at a time when we will be reviewing the budget, he will remove the tax,” said Menyani.
On his part, Kalua said the tax on SMS and internet is punitive such that it has to be reviewed if government is serious on indigenous Malawians’ socio-economic development
“What is it that we want to achieve by introducing these taxes? Can we achieve economic development by punishing people whom we are expected to serve and protect? Can we achieve anything if these people shun the SMSs and internet due to the tax?” queried Kalua.
He added: “Let’s work at means of improving our economy, but not through overtaxing Malawians. Already there are so many punitive tax measures and introducing another tax regime is purely punishing Malawians.”
During the mid-year budget review which Pac is targeting regarding the removal of tax on SMSs and internet, government is also expected to table bills which were not debated during the last parliament meeting.
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