17 May 2019

Uganda: Footing OTT Tax - MPs Insensitive to Voters

editorial

The move by the Parliamentary Commission to foot the bills of Internet service and social media tax, Over the Top (OTT), using taxpayers' money is being very insensitive to the ordinary person, who religiously foot their own bills.

Parliamentary documents show that the taxpayers will foot the monthly MPs' Shs6,000 for OTT tax and Shs30,000 for 5GB data bundles for each of the 459 MPs.

Giant telecom company MTN Uganda got the contract to provide this service.

On May 30, 2018, Parliament approved the social media tax that requires every social media user in Uganda to pay Shs200 per day to browse social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among others.

The new tax drew outrage last year from sections of Ugandans, including a demonstration led by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, who argued that it would curtail access to information.

This move by the MPs to dodge feeling the pinch of the social media taxes that they themselves debated and passed, leaving the local taxpayer to foot their own bill, is being "greedy" and "insensitive" to them.

Law makers are among the highly paid Ugandans who earn a hefty consolidated salary of Shs25m plus allowances, hence they are more than capable of paying the monthly OTT tax of Shs6,000 and buying internet bundles.

Other benefits that the MPs get are Shs2m for the iPad, Shs60m for funeral, Shs10,000 for meals per day, Shs50,000 per every House sitting, Shs9m for social security, Shs50,000 per every committee sitting and Shs1m allowance monthly for town running.

On the contrary, majority of taxpayers hustle with everyday life and yet they are forced to pay their own OTT tax and also buy internet bundles if they are to remain connected. Under the current circumstances, government should now pay for every subscriber the social media tax or do away with tax altogether. One wonders why and for whom the legislators debated and passed this social media tax that they cannot themselves pay.

Could they have passed a Bill that they did not understand its ramifications once passed into law?

Under the current arrangement, government will spend a monthly Shs16.4 million or Shs197 million on the MPs. This is a substantive amount of money that can be used to construct schools since many of them are in dire state.

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