Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Member of Parliament for Dedza East, Juliana Lunguzi, has demanded a halt to a proposed tax on internet use, saying. this move will make Malawians unable to access internet services and therefore be denied their right to information.
Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe announced that starting this year, government will levy 10 percent excise duty on mobile phone text messaging as well as all data transfers including internet and similar services.
Gondwe made the announcement last Friday he presented a national budget for 2015-2016 financial years in Lilongwe at the National Assembly.
“The Internet is very important to a lot of people, especially the youth and students,” Lunguzi said.
But Lunguzi called the internet tax as “retrogressing” saying evening university students will be affected as most of today’s learning is done through electronic research.
She said “this is an e-generation” echoing activists who claim that the tax is “anti-democratic” that aims at restricting freedom of information.
Economist Alock Nyasulu has also protested against the tax on internet , saying it will also lead to “an increase in other related services such as bank charges since banks are a major
consumer of data services with real on time networks.”
Nyasulu said mobile money charges will also likely to go up, a development that will have a negative effect on efforts to increase financial inclusion since the service largely benefits the unbanked rural communities.
International trade expert Watipaso Mkandawire commented: “We should be encouraging bringing this technology to the majority and using it as an enabler. Mobile banking is seen as a way of serving the unbanked majority. And here we are taxing the very same enabler.”
Gondwe said the tax on internet has been put following the “tremendous uptake” of the telecommunication services in Malawi and in order to expand the tax base “to generate resources” for the national budget.
The Finance Minister told the House that there are several Taxation Act amendments which government is proposing.
He said the Taxation Act amendments will be presented to parliament through a bill.