Yesterday, Uganda’s Parliament passed the unpopular controversial bill to tax social media and mobile money transactions across all networks which many still against.
Despite protests, the parliament pushed forward the bill which will introduce a mandatory fee of Shs200 imposed on WhatsApp users starting July 1 while mobile money will face a 1% levy on the total value of each transaction.
Before the bill was passed, it faced a lot of resistance from MPs like Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyaggulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, who referred to it as double taxation. He was supported by Padyere County’s Joshua Anywarach, and Silas Aogon of Kumi Municipality.
The youthful MPs argued that since WhatsApp is accessed through already taxed airtime, another levy would be an infringement on the users’ rights.
According to David Bahati, the junior Planning minister the government isn’t taxing internet/data but the service itself in response to claims that they were already doing so.
WhatsApp users will be charged Shs200 per day which totals to Shs73,000 per year. We are yet to ascertain how people will react to this new tax but time will tell.
Most of the MPs are against this move and argue that it will only make the lives of ordinary Ugandans more difficult than it already is. One has to think about what this will do to those that relay on social media to promote their businesses and the already struggling startups that can’t afford to pay monthly data fees to remain active online.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliamament, Ms Winnie Kiiza (FDC, Kasese), together with Kasanda North MP Patrick Nsamba (NRM), Ms Monicah Amoding (NRM, Kumi), and Justine Kayinza (NRM, Bududa), all laboured in vain to sway the House to resist the taxes.
“It is very easy for an MP to say that one per cent is little money, but to people who earn less than a dollar a day, it is going to break their backs,” Mr Nsamba said.
Some of the MPs that endorsed the move on more taxation included Aruu County MP Odonga Otto (FDC), Kyankwanzi Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa (NRM) and Katikamu North MP Abraham Byandala (NRM).
Are these new taxes aimed at only improving the tax collection by government or there is more to it than the eye can see?
Let’s take a look at the social media tax for example, the government as on many occasions had issues with how information is freely shared on social media and has gone as far as to block internet usage in some instances.
Is it a step towards information censorship? Tell us what you think by hitting the comment button!
Source: Monitor Uganda
Allan Bangirana is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Spur Magazine. He is also the co-founder of the Innovware project.
He is a freelance consultant passionate about tech, programming, games and entertainment.