Fierce criticism that has largely accompanied government’s introduction of a daily charge of Shs 200 for the use of social media platforms, and one per cent tax for transactions on mobile money shouldn’t be too quickly tamped down as some government officials are trying to do.
The public uproar aside, government officials have been presented with an opportunity to listen to the masses. Regardless of their political affiliation, the people have been largely unified in their condemnation of the two sets of taxes.
Through all this society’s noise, one truth remains clear: a large section of the public feels government is already squandering a lot of taxes from the national treasury.
That means government needs to embark on some soul-searching. While government is desperate to expand its tax base, there is need for further investment in areas that can generate revenue.
This is not hard. Government needs to slash its bloated expenditure on public administration and politics and channel those savings to areas that can generate revenue for the country.
This country doesn’t need the more than 70 ministers and over 100 presidential advisers when bigger and more developed countries have far less. Politics is also eating way too much into our tiny coffers.
We spent billions of shillings last year during passage of the hugely divisive NRM-pushed age-limit legislation and far more will be spent on the anticipated referendum to realign the five-year presidential term to the seven-year term of other elected officials.
Government also needs to further recapitalise the Uganda Development Bank and ensure the bank offers cheaper loans to certain critical businesses.
The country needs to create a local content unit to ensure that local businesses are offered priority during the procurement and tendering processes. The culture of spending huge amounts of money on foreign services should be largely minimized.
Lastly, government has to fight the elephant in its room – corruption. Stringent laws must be introduced to ensure that those convicted for corruption-related offences do more than just jail time. Their illegally-amassed wealth should be auctioned off to recover the money.
In the end, government will discover that revenues invested into the economy will create a larger base to tax, other than keep taxing the already burdened few.