In Summary
  • If anything, he should be lauded for bringing up the brilliant idea of taxing social media. The real culprits are the overzealous Members of Parliament, who wanted to please their boss. The blame is upon you and I for being so lax in the way we choose our leaders.

When I heard about tax on Mobile Money and social media, I thought it was a joke. I laughed at the idea and equated it to the ban on buveera (polyethylene bags), but little did I know that this would soon be a reality. I first learnt of this proposed tax from a letter written by the President that went viral. I shrugged off the idea of Shs200 on social media not even giving it much thought.

Fast forward to today and you can see that all Ugandans are outraged. When you analyse the tax, you realise that it was a good idea that was poorly implemented. This leads me to wonder as to why such a half-baked Bill would be assented to by people who ought to know better.

Then I remember the letter and it takes me back to a conversation I had with a gentleman that worked in civil service for more than 30 years. He made it clear that once the President makes a suggestion, it must come to pass. At the time, I still strongly believed in the rule of law and believed we lived in a democratic society. I rubbished the idea.

Little did I know that the president’s word is law! When the Bill was passed, I was outraged. If only a little more thought had been put into this issue, it wouldn’t have been a big problem. People pay tax every day, but they pay it without their knowledge hence you do not hear them complain. When passing these taxes, one has to put equity, not equality into consideration. Equality means taxing individuals the same, which would be unfair to low income earners.

On the other hand, equity means taxing people according to how much they can afford. The tax does not necessarily have to be Shs200 for every buyer. Telecom companies could tax social bundles by raising their prices from Shs250 to Shs300 (making the Shs50 for tax) then they could raise other bundles from Shs1,000 to Shs1,100 - increasing the amount paid in tax with a corresponding increase in the purchasing power.
Alternatively, charge perhaps a direct tax to the telecom companies that would eventually adjust their rates to shift the burden to the final consumer.

This would have been far more palatable. There were a plethora of better ways the tax could have been collected. I do not blame legislators for this whole fiasco, after all, the NRM MPs that voted against the Togikwatakko Bill have been facing problems in their party. This in spite of the fact that their voters had directed them to vote against.

This has led us to a level of complacency that has put us where we are today. When the issue was put to vote, however terrible/good the Bill was, it had to pass simply because the NRM party has the majority MPs. The President or Finance minister are not to blame for this.

If anything, he should be lauded for bringing up the brilliant idea of taxing social media. The real culprits are the overzealous Members of Parliament, who wanted to please their boss. The blame is upon you and I for being so lax in the way we choose our leaders.

Kiiza Kihembo,
[email protected]