Irony is a horrible sharp double-edged sword – Janet Karim, 2021
In the super information highway where the Internet, cell phones and social media platforms are connecting people in various ways, the cost of the user can determine the accessibility and or controlling methods of the governors on the governed.
A discussion on the cost of data and the heavily inflated tax by the government has raised the question: does government appreciate the roles of the media, voters, and taxpayers? The government is not making life easy for its citizens.
The cost of implements to enable communication in Malawi is too high when compared with other parts of the world. Malawi has 3.5 million cell phone subscribers, the revenue the country nets is $19 million; in Zambia, there are 4.6 million subscribers and the government nets $15 million while in Tanzania, there are 19.6 million subscribers who bring in $15 million.
Communication gurus were in a frenzy on social media and one quoted Minister of Information Gospel Kazako as having talked about bringing down the price of data with a “mbuzi analogy”. In this, the minister intimidated that “you cannot sell a goat to a customer and order him to finish eating it by tomorrow and come back to buy more goat.
“The biggest problem is that Internet and mobile communication services are heavily taxed in Malawi,” another guru chipped in.
It is lamentable that the people responsible for imposing the taxes get free Internet and do not feel the pain of inflated prices.
“They don’t know the pain of getting K500 for a bundle when their entitlements for data are in hundreds of thousands of kwacha per month. They cannot see that they are indirectly robbing us,” he said.
Another example was unveiled where a local brewery tells the tale of government taxes and levies imposed on alcohol leading to the bottle of its product costing K45 instead of K5. The irony of this is that even if the brewery sold its product for K5, it would “still be making its profit!”
As a support measure during the Covid-19 phase, service providers Airtel and TNM reduced tariffs, but since government did not reduce taxes and levies, the end-users—who are the media, voters and taxpayers—did not get to enjoy the cushioning created by the companies’ acts of social responsibility.
Government truly appears to be an unfriendly and tax loving entity. In this irony-clad environment, this is my petition to the honorable lawmakers. in these challenging Covid-19 pandemic times, communication is vital. Communication Is a human right tool. The petition asks for a major review of the tax law regarding these media tools that the people use to communicate with each other.
The petition is herein being sent to the ministers of Finance and Economic Development. We need a law that reduces the tax burden on the media, voters and taxpayers; show how the government appreciates these groups.
It is time to show up at the mercy table; to show the people that they are valued and truly held as the masters; and to show who the servant and the master is in the room. But most of all, it is time to stop milking the cow dry.
While the discussion is open, Parliament should join the taxpayers’ ranks. It was a selfish “we are privileged” stroke of the pen that in the Bakili Muluzi administration, tax liabilities for all elected officials in Parliament were removed. It was a move that in one stroke, made parliamentarians equal to the Cabinet. The fact that ministers and parliamentarians do not pay taxes robs the country of vital revenue.
Imagine, if one can, the millions of kwacha the government would be making if the top-paid political officials–the President, Vice-President, ministers, parliamentarians and judges, all paid taxes! We could finance our own development projects; we could, like The Philippines, be our own donor.
To the honorable members of Parliament: Do the honorable thing by removing your non-taxpaying privilege law. It is the right thing to do.