UGANDANS STILL USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND MOBILE MONEY DESPITE BOYCOT CALL OVER HIGH TAX

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A scene at a Mobile Money kiosk and a nearby newspaper stand in Gulu City

“It is now eleven o’clock and I have just received seven customers. Five came to deposit while two came to withdraw money. Before the tax was introduced last Sunday, I would have received forty customers by this time of the day already”

“Sometimes I get customers who would like to fight me over the tax, thinking that I was cheating them, yet it is the recently imposed tax by government”

“The Kampala government is desperate for any money it can lay its hands on, so we expect that it will stay the course on social media tax for a while. It might raise additional revenue though it will unlikely get the additional 400 million shillings ($ 1,049,687 dollars) it is hoping for. More worthwhile to explore, is whether this will be a net positive outcome”

“The social media users have no right to squander the dollars I earn from my coffee, my milk etc. by endlessly donating money to foreign telephone companies through chatting or even lying and then, they are allergic to even a modest contribution to their country whose collective wealth they are misusing”

GULU-UGANDA: It is eleven o’clock in the morning, local time (04:00 GMT) on Friday, July 6, 2018 and twenty-seven year old Brian Mugema sits idly in his yellow MTN Mobile Money kiosk at Gulu City Mall, located along Gulu Avenue in Gulu City without customers to attend to.

As he sees me approach his kiosk, he smiles thinking I am probably one of his usual customers who has come to deposit or withdraw money using mobile money: “You are most welcome sir” he tells me.

It is the sixth day since the government started to put into effect, the new tax on social media and mobile money where customers pay OTT tax of UGX 200 (US 5 cents) per day, for the use of social media and a 1% tax on all mobile money transactions.

After I introduced myself, he relaxes a bit, ready to pour out all his hearts to me.

“It is now eleven o’clock and I have just received seven customers. Five came to deposit while two came to withdraw money. Before the tax was introduced last Sunday, I would have received forty customers by this time of the day already”, says Brian.

He says some customers seemed to have not heard about the new tax since they quarrel a lot and would like to fight him, calling him ‘thief’ whenever their money is deducted.

“Sometimes I get customers who want to fight me over the tax, thinking that I was cheating them yet it is the recently imposed tax by government”, says Brian.

Ms. Irene Namulete, another mobile money operator at the Gulu High Court premise says government has withdrawn tax on all deposits but retained tax on sending and withdrawing.

She says she received only ten customers by eleven o’clock in the morning on the same day; two withdrawals and eight deposits. Before that, Ms Namulete would get eighty customers a day before the tax was introduced but this has changed since she now gets less than thirty customers a day.

On March 12, 2018 dictator Museveni is quoted to have said that government was going “to introduce a tax on social media to raise revenue and curtail ‘gossip’”

A research conducted by Economic Policy Research Center conducted in 2017 revealed that Ugandans transmitted 18 billion Uganda shillings ($4.7million dollars) daily using mobile money.

These new taxes have since generated a lot of debate, both for and against in all media outlets, including social media.

A top opposition political party leader in Uganda, Mr. Norbert Mao said in a statement on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 that telecom companies are going to ‘discover that Uganda is not a lucrative country since they were already being charged costs like 2% levy on turnover and license fees’.

“The Kampala government is desperate for any money it can lay its hands on, so we expect that it will stay the course on social media tax for a while. It might raise additional revenue though it will unlikely get the additional 400 million shillings ($ 1,049,687 dollars) it is hoping for. More worthwhile to explore, is whether this will be a net positive outcome”, writes columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo.

“This tax is optional, if you want, you pay, if you don’t want, you don’t pay. That is what is under the law. That is the information I want to give. The government is asking for just one thousand shillings and everyone is in arms. This is lack of patriotism” media quotes Pader district legislator, Samuel Odonga-Otto.

“We call upon all Ugandans, not just on social media, but everywhere that it is time to own our country, it is time to show we are the majority. Power belongs to the people and we are the people,” says Kyadondo East legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a. Bobi Wine.

“I would rather make a humble contribution to the legal team challenging the social media levy in court than pay the tax. If they want us to be motivated to pay the tax, let them, with equal aggression, also fight corruption which every sensible Ugandan knows is their way of life”, writes Moses Odokonyero, the President of Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) on his Facebook wall.

“The social media users have no right to squander the dollars I earn from my coffee, my milk etc. by endlessly donating money to foreign telephone companies through chatting or even lying and then, they are allergic to even a modest contribution to their country whose collective wealth they are misusing” Tweeted President Museveni in defence of the tax.

The President says Uganda’s import bill has decreased slightly from $7 billion to $5 billion.

 

 

 

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