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OPINION: Uganda — Dying regime taxes citizens to death

President Yoweri Museveni will be sworn in for a another term (PHOTO/Courtesy).

When you here regime officials speak sometimes if you pretend you didn’t know the truth you might believe they are making sense. 

At the 5th National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Suppliers Forum held last week, the Fund’s procurement plan, key projects and how technology has enabled best-in-class procurement practices at the Fund and government as a whole were discussed. 

The Fund’s managing director and chief executive officer Richard Byarugaba said, “Our call today is for partnerships, shaping a future with the Fund all together. The key drivers of our business today are data and technology. Suppliers who remain analogue cannot do business with us. Public procurement accounts for 13% to 20% of global GDP. Fifty-five percent of Uganda’s budget is spent on public procurement but an estimated 10% to 25% is lost as a result of inefficiency and corruption.“

To avoid such shortfalls in the current procurement process, Byarugaba unveiled business opportunities for local suppliers in real estate and information technology for the next financial year. His plans are hinged upon a coherent information and communications technology (ICT) plan being rolled out by government. 

Instead, government has introduced a 12% tax on internet data, thereby ratcheting up prices for online access in a country where consumers are already paying some of the world’s highest internet costs.

With rising data costs and slow internet penetration, the key drivers for business that Byarugaba identified —namely data and technology— are going to be hampered by yet another tax under the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2021.  In the shadow of Covid-19 restrictions, Ugandans have to rely on online services in order to do business, but this tax will impede access to online activity even though the internet plays a dominant role in economic production and productivity. 

Clearly the ruling National Resistance Movement’s (NRM’s) policies are ruinous to the country’s economic relations. The predatory regime disrupts economic productivity by taxing economic relations such as internet access.

The regime, under dictator of 35 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni, does not want people to work independently since the elite want to and do in fact monopolize the means of production. As the government becomes more corrupt, it will thus exploit the Ugandan worker for the benefit of the corrupt leader. Gen. Museveni, seems determined to impose punitive taxes on Ugandans for not voting for him in the last presidential elections. 

Another nightmare is Uganda’s debt crisis.

On April 26 Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said Uganda will approach international creditors, including China and the World Bank for suspension of interest payments on loans. The total public debt was $18 billion by the end of 2020 with $12 billion owed to external creditors. 

”Even me, I don’t like borrowing but in this case, we don’t have any options, but to borrow to finance some of these projects,” Kasaija said. The total debt is now $18.2 billion yet the national budget stands at $12.6 billion.

Kasaija can say whatever he wants but in the end will shut up and do what his master, Gen. Museveni wants—which is to borrow more in order to keep his neo-patrimonial state afloat. How has the regime arrived at this excessive debt burden? Was it spending on first-class education for Ugandans and state of the  science healthcare? 

Here are some examples of the spending: $11 million to upgrade the existing security system in Parliament and installation of a new block which will have 8 floors, chambers, an archive center, press gallery, a spacious members’ lounge, offices for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, a library, dining hall, and committee rooms.

This is all for a parliament packed through election rigging by NRM Members of Parliament (MPs) who, Gen. Museveni publicly said, may sleep through parliamentary debates if they want as long as they wake up to vote on NRM bills geared to entrench Museveni’s misrule. 

The monthly pay check for a member of Parliament in Uganda is about $6,700 before tax and peaks at about $8,000 when all possible allowances are added. All this in a country with per capita income of about $800. This would be akin to an American senator earning $650,000 per month; the U.S. per capita income is about $65,000.

If we assume that every one of Uganda’s 529 MPs get the maximum emoluments possible, it would come to $4.2 million per month or $50.8 million yearly. 

At independence in 1962 there were 16 districts, 17 ministers, and 11 parliamentary secretaries. Today we have 111 districts  whose bureaucracies exist simply to employ regime sycophants. At one point the regime had 31 ministers and 49 ministers of state. 

Now we see why a dying regime is taxing the citizenry to death.

Columnist Matogo can be reached via [email protected] 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect our editorial stance.

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