On first word of the OTT tax, we probably all thought “They cannot tax a service they don’t provide.” Now its a few days in and with each sunset, I am more impressed than angry that something the President promised actually came to pass. Woohoo! But while I would like to dwell on the fact that I am being forced to pay for my right to free speech, self-expression and communication, I’m really here to talk about something more pressing than that.
Around the time Mobile Money was first heard of, I had watched enough Men in Black to know that while technological advancement was possible, money on the phone? Please! Now it’s been over ten years and everything runs on mobile money. It’s efficient, fast and grandparents can use it. Score! Every round the corner shop in every suburb neighborhood provides mobile money services. Eventually all telecommunication companies picked up stride and now the only cash you needed was for groceries and taxi rides.
While I respect or at least try to ignore the bulk of the decisions made by our parliament, I cannot help but be disgruntled by their recent tax on all mobile money transactions. I for one thought the withdrawal charges would increase by like 500 shillings so I never felt the force behind the tax till I loaded 30000 shillings and received 29700 shillings. I mean, I had plans for that 300 shillings, it was going to pay for a day and a half of OTT!
Knowing Ugandans, the row over OTT tax would eventually calm down and like portholes, dust everywhere, broken traffic signs and roads blockades for ministers’ daughters’ extravagant weddings, we would get used to it and accept our sad reality. This mobile money tax is theft in many ways. One, 1% is too much and 0.5% is just as much. Couldn’t it be 0.1 or more like the Kenyan 0.05% Robin Hood tax? If you were to send 5 million which is the standard mobile money limit, you would have to give up 50,000 shillings. I understand that next to 5 million, 50,000 shillings seems like nothing but that is only if you haven’t sweated for it.
We Ugandans, while a rash group, are not exactly an unreasonable bunch. If the government could provide us with a step by step breakdown and transparent overview of the use of our money, then we would grudgingly accept this with full knowledge that it will make ours a better place to live. The government cannot and therefore we cannot sit in silence.
I am sure you are thinking, “Why can’t she for once have faith in her country?” Well, for one, when the tax on fuel was increased for the nth time, it was for ‘the sole purpose of funding UNRA to create about 5000 kilometers of road. Its 2018 and they have accounted for less than 2000 kilometers. But hey, the year is barely finished yet. Let us give them time. More on the topic of how money handling has continued to embarrass our nation, I will take you back to 2007, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a decade ago. I don’t know about you but am still waiting on the supposed five star hotel that ate up the spacious grounds of Shimoni School. Even the tree Her Highness Queen Elizabeth the second planted has long since dried up. It’s probably just the pessimist in me but these people couldn’t keep a tree alive. Are we really going to hand them a projected income of 284 billion?
If the case had been widening the tax base, more taxes could have been levied on tobacco products and foreign wines and spirits because if Uganda Waragi isn’t enough for you, you ought to pay for blatant lack of patriotism.
The fact that the tax has been implemented but is still being discussed in parliament is a display of thorough incompetence. This all said, what does this mean for the average Ugandan? It means more revenue will be brought in and more revenue will ‘go missing’. We will have taken half a step ahead only to lose five more. Term limits will be lengthened and the same people supposed to speak for us will tax us more and hole up in armored vehicles. But, it also means that whichever religion, tribe beliefs, whatever it is you stand for, you are first and fore most Ugandan so #ThisTaxMustGo.