The Over The Top Services Tax and Social Media Tax can only be said as utter embarrassment by the National Resistance Movement (NRM). There are enough things to know this would happen, as the plan was for getting the revenue, but not thinking the consequences of the taxes. That is why, today’s revelations about the levied taxes isn’t that surprising.
Without due-diligence, it is hard to know the effects and the means for why it is put. It seems like the President and the NRM had a dream of cash-flowing into the Consolidation Fund without any consequences, but apparently it does. And when you add taxes on things, people either use less or plan more effortlessly to circumvent this added cost on their daily lives.
Daily Monitor Reports: “Government collected Shs20.5b from social media in the last quarter ended September, according to data obtained from Uganda Revenue Authority. The tax, which was implemented in July, was however, less than the Shs24.9b target that URA had hoped to collect in the period. URA has a monthly target of Shs8.3b. The tax was introduced in the Excise Duty amendments of financial year 2018/19 requiring all social media users to pay Shs200 per day, before accessing certain platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, among others. Government intends to collect about Shs100b before the end of the 2018/19 financial year” (Christine Kasemiire – ‘OTT raises Shs20b in first quarter, URA fails on targets’ 07.11.2018).
While it is a few days ago, that the MTN Uganda promised the 24 hours since paying tax, that the tax would last from the time of payment of the tax until the time is spent. Instead of how it has been, until the new day coming. Meaning, that often you would only get half-a-day with the Social Media, as the taxation would start again, when the clock turns 00:01.
That is why this was news to: “Airtel Uganda and other telecom service providers have announced a fundamental change in the Over the Top excise duty imposed on social media following a directive from Uganda Communications Commission, the telecommunications regulatory body in Uganda. Since its introduction in July 2018, the tax commonly known as OTT or social media tax, was only valid up to midnight of the payment date for daily users. With the recent changes, daily subscribers can now enjoy internet services for a complete 24 hours – right up to the time that they subscribed 24 hours earlier. This also applies to the weekly and monthly users who can also enjoy services until the time that they subscribed” Brian Emorut – ‘Social Media tax validity to now last 24 hours’ 06.11.2018 – Guide 2 Uganda).
So now, Airtel and MTN has changed their pattern of getting the OTT tax. While URA is struggling to met the supposed the quota. This shows that the state had not considered all implications to the levied taxes. The NRM clearly didn’t envision, either the use of VPN and also that people cannot afford it. Because it is barrier to be even using the social media after the taxes.
Surely, the 24 hours usage and the lack of collection. That the Telecoms and the Mobile Money outlets has been pushed and lost revenue is certain. As the data-bundles and Air-Time had to be corrected from July on and also now the barrier for OTTs are changing again. This is surely showing that the Telecoms and the Republic wasn’t prepared for this, but doing it on orders from the President. Peace.
Today, it is revealed what the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Members of Parliaments (MPs) was promised on the 1st October at the Entebbe State House on the day before the second time voting for the newly enacted taxes, which are on Social Media and Mobile Money. Clearly, the President and his allies wanted to sweeten the juice, as they was promised some more money. Not that it was much.
“During the meeting, legislators (according to our source) were promised 15 millions each to vote “No” opposing the scrapping off of 0.5% as proposed by MP Wilfred Niwagaba last week when the bill had reached committee stage. In the vote, 164 MPs agreed to maintain the levy on mobile money while 124 voted to have it scrapped. A total of 288 legislators were present and voted” (Moses Namayo – ‘MPs promised Shs 15m each for vote to keep mobile money tax- Reports’ 03.10.2018, link: http://nilepost.co.ug/2018/10/03/mps-promised-shs-15m-each-for-vote-to-keep-mobile-money-tax-reports/).
I would have been thinking that the MPs would be more costly, if not their greed is making them cheap and Bosco knows it. As they are now accepting to get a small pickle push of 15 million shillings or $ 3,924 USD, which is less than 4,000 dollars each. When your hearing that, you surprised how little that is to keep a tax, which is hurting huge part of the population and also making every transaction more expensive. They are still making it expensive and costly for the public to takeout money through the mobile money. In a Republic where it is costly to even be ordinary banking.
That is why it weird and sad that these NRM MPs are that cheap, that Bosco can pay them off with only 4,000 USD or 15 million shillings. If you take it all collectively, there was a 164 MPs who voted for it and adding up. That would be a total 640m shillings or $167k USD. Which is not more worth than one 2018 Audi R8 Quattro, which costs $164,900. If a few more had voted for keeping the Mobile Money, than Bosco might have used the amount for an upgraded version: “The R8 Spyder convertible costs $177,100, and the more-powerful R8 Plus will cost about $194,400” (Cherise Threewitt – ‘ Cars That Cost $100,000’ 28.09.2018, link: https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/cars-that-cost-100-grand).
So, the NRM MPs isn’t really that expensive, their ideals, their egos and their greed isn’t costing more than super Audi R8 Quattro. That is expensive enough for me to never in my life-time to touch it. But if someone should be bribed to sell out their constituents for a destructive tax. All done in favor of Bosco. The pay-off should be bigger, there should be enough for a car-park filled with Audi R8 Quattro’s. Not just selling out for one. I was disappointed, when the Age Limit pay-off, wasn’t costing more than one Aston Martin. Now it costed an Audi R8. Clearly, the NRM is still traded off for cheap. Peace.
Today I attended Parliament after some time, for the sole purpose of making our voice heard on the mobile money tax. The government has deliberately avoided a discussion on the social media tax!
Majority of the NRM Members of Parliament voted to maintain the mobile money tax. 164 MPs voted in favor of the tax while 124 of us voted to have it scrapped. I know that we are all disappointed but not surprised.
Once again, a majority of our elected representatives ignored the cries and pleas of the common person. I have made it clear to my colleagues that we must learn to side with the people or the people will despair. They cannot continue to further oppress the already oppressed citizens of this country.
I must appreciate all colleague MPs who voted for the removal of the tax. Special thanks to the many NRM MPs who defied the intimidation and voted with the people. From experience, we know that they will be persecuted for taking a contrary stand. But I know that the reward for doing what is right always outweighs any form of persecution.
Ultimately, all these things emphasise what I have been saying- our redemption will not come from anywhere else. It will come from us. We only need to realise that all power lies with us. If our own MPs, elected by us, cannot listen to us on anything, including redeeming us from exploitative taxes, then we must realise that WE ARE ON OUR OWN and work each day to liberate ourselves. No one else will do. Teli kuzikiza.
Today, there is a new vote and amendment of the Mobile Money in the Parliament. They voted like blind drones in the last go-around and most likely to do the same. With a little flair and jippo, hoping the hungry hippo isn’t mad. However, the reality remained, that a growing market, a market where the revenue and natural growth could have resided. The National Resistance Movement and their President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, went in like bulldozer. Hoping it wouldn’t destroy it, but actually gain. It is foolish, but that is how they act.
That is why it is special to read again, what where there, but what is now hurt:
“Mobile money services continued to register significant growth in the year ended June 2018. The number of mobile money transactions increased to 1.3 trillion for the year to June 2018 from 1.1 trillion transactions in the prior year. The corresponding value of mobile money transactions increased to UGX 73.1 trillion from UGX 52.8 trillion in the previous year. However, the number of registered mobile money users decreased from 22.8 million in June 2017 to 22.7 million as at end of June 2018, largely attributed to the deregistration of mobile money accounts whose users had not submitted the requisite KYC credentials to maintain their registration status. Growth of mobile money activity has significantly benefited from diversified usage beyond the initial remittances, airtime purchases and bills payments. New developments such as bank account to mobile money wallet and vice versa, have significantly changed the conduct of banking business and increased convenience of access to banking services. In addition, customers are now also able to save and borrow through their mobile money accounts which has positive knock-on effects to financial intermediation in general” (Bank of Uganda Annual Report 2017/2018).
We know post- June 2018, that the landscape has changed. Even mere month after the Mobile Money tax, the usage went down and the companies we’re sending red-signals to the authorities. The added revenue stream to government, didn’t met up to par or the levels anticipated, as people changed their pattern and usage of money. Because, who want to pay double or triple tax for sending money? Than, they rather hire a boda to drive the money from town to town. It can even be cheaper, than paying the Uganda Revenue Authority or the MTN for their services.
Clearly, this little snippet of the report from the Bank of Uganda, should show the Members of Parliament, the importance of Mobile Money. Which, they had no trouble with interfering in and also possibly hurt. This are for the ones that cannot afford ordinary banking services or for the ones, in the villages that are too far away to even register their cash there. They should matter to the MPs, but they didn’t before, as they took this informal banking services through the Cellphone providers and added more pain. Instead of finding ways to grow it and expand. So more people could benefit from the new money unleashed on the market this way. Peace.
Through this partnership, MTN MoMo customers will use a virtual card to shop or make payments at the vast network of global outlets accepting Mastercard payments.
KAMPALA, Uganda, September 25, 2018 – MTN Uganda (MTN.co.ug) in partnership with Mastercard (Mastercard.com) and United Bank for Africa (UBA) (UBAGroup.com) have announced a new service that will enable quicker, safer and more convenient online payments globally. Through this partnership, MTN MoMo customers will use a virtual card to shop or make payments at the vast network of global outlets accepting Mastercard payments.
The launch of the virtual card that is known as MTN MoMocard will ensure MTN’s ability to provide its customers access to products and services previously a preserve of physical credit card holders while diversifying its mobile money portfolio. Additionally, the partnership will result in a wide range of cutting-edge digital payment solutions being introduced in Uganda.
“MTN MoMo is helping to connect more Ugandans to new forms of commerce,” said Wim Vanhelleputte, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Uganda. “Our affordable mobile financial services are positively impacting communities and lifestyles in Uganda. This is evidenced by the phenomenal growth in both the number of customers and volume of transactions over the years,” he added.
Like a debit card that is linked to a bank account, the MTN MoMocard is linked to a customer’s MTN MoMo account but is accessible on any type of mobile phone. All a customer has to do is dial 165*70# and follow the instructions.
The MTN MoMocard can be used on any merchant platform that accepts Mastercard – locally and globally. Consumers that travel frequently for business or leisure, or those that shop online will enjoy the convenience of the easy-to-use solution.
Ngozi Megwa, Vice President Market Development, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard said, “Besides the ability to connect more consumers to a solution that enables them to pay without cash, the virtual card also supports the growth of e-commerce in Africa and supports businesses who want to appeal to a wider audience. Digital payments is shaping commerce, the backbone of any economy. We are excited about the MTN partnership and its ability to connect us with an audience hungry for innovation.”
The MTN MoMocard is powered by United Bank for Africa, which facilitates the payment transactions online, both locally and internationally.
“UBA is excited to be the bank partner with Mastercard and MTN on this milestone project that not only enhances convenience for mobile money customers but also the utility of the service. The bank recognises the role of technology in enhancing financial services delivery and welcomes future similar partnerships,” said Johnson Agoreyo, the UBA Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.