Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Can TRA Tell Us the Richest Tanzanians in Terms of Taxes Paid?

THE good news for Tanzanians, especially future citizens of this great country, is that they are lucky to live in a country which has all the enviable qualities of becoming the richest in black Africa if not the whole continent.

This country, they say, is floating on oil, gas and the most expensive minerals one can think of; diamonds, gold, uranium and those other precious stones bearing complicated, funny and bizarre names plus , of course, Tanzanite - you name it all.

Only this week, the authorities dealing in oil and gas exploration and extraction told Tanzanians that they have just discovered another gas well somewhere in the southern regions.

Yes, this means more good news. These discoveries have attracted the attention of many gas and oil tycoons from all over the world. Not to be outdone, our so called local tycoons are also interested in this luscious cake and demand to take part in the business of 'eating' it.

But we are told that gas and oil business is a very expensive undertaking; that it requires massive capital investment, but the returns are equally rewarding. According to people who think they know better about the business and the volume of capital needed in investing in it is too huge for local 'millionaires' to afford.

Obviously, this has infuriated many local rich guys who believe they are being deliberately frustrated out of envy. They demand to be taken in the fold by giving them special favour through formulating guided and guarded policies and laws that should put the indigenous investor at the top.

They have many reasons for demanding such favours, but the one I tend to agree with is that the returns from the investments will remain in Tanzania for the benefit of the country. It means that the returns will surely be ploughed back into more enterprises, thus opening up more employment opportunities for more Tanzanians and by extension improving life standards.

This compares negatively with benefits accrued from the business by foreign investors in the industry because most of it will be flighted home to benefit people of the investors.

Maybe those who have a business minds, those who have read some economic, especially those who are familiar with gas and oil economic intricacies can tell laymen like us whether this is a real situation. Is it true that there are no indigenous Tanzanians who can afford the investments required in the business?

Some quarters of the public allege that those local 'wealthy' ladies and gentlemen who want a share of the gas blocks have no real capacity to do so, but that they want to 'own' the blocks so that they can sell them later to 'real' investors at a profit.

Others allege that if our local tycoons enter into mining prospecting without much ado, why can't they do the same with gas and oil prospecting. If they can partner with foreign investors in the gem like Tanzanite, rubby, gold and others prospecting, why can't they do the same in oil and gas prospecting?

Or is it that even in the gem prospecting business our local 'wealthy' citizens are there in name only? Just as the government was inviting tenders for gas blocks recently there was another hue and cry by our rich local individuals demanding, among other things, deferment of the tendering process until a gas and oil policy that would guarantee local participation was in place.

As I was wondering who these millionaire Tanzanians were some organisation (Forbes) offered the names via local newspapers saying that the richest Tanzanian was Rostam Aziz, a fifth generation Tanzanian of Persian origin, putting his fortune at 1billion US Dollars.

Others on the list were Mohamed Dewji, Reginald Mengi, Said Salim Bakhresa, Gulam Dewji and Ali Mufuruki but not in that order, but everyone's fortune had been placed against his name. Some business minded people were wondering whether the listing of the most rich Tanzanians and their fortunes attached was coincidental with the gas blocks tendering.

That could be farfetched, as they say, but my less-financial-orientated mind found itself engaged in a raging debate as to whether I should ask the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to clarify on the authenticity of the figures against the names, in terms of taxes to the government.

I mean, do the taxes these rich Tanzanians pay to the TRA tally with the amount of wealth they own? I hope the TRA people are in a position to tell the public (if necessary) who the richest Tanzanians are by looking at the amount of taxes they pay and naturally if they do not pay, take legal action against them.

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