MPs want Parliament recalled over Social Media tax

A group of MPs from across the political divide have started collecting signatures seeking to recall Parliament from recess to reconsider taxes on social media and mobile money.

Led by Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga, the MPs want to move Parliament to urge government to amend the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2018 by reconsidering the Over the top (OTT) services and mobile money transactions tax.

Their petition to the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga is based on Rule 21(1) and (2) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.

“It is our prayer that you find that public interest in recalling Parliament outweighs all other considerations. The situation is currently crippling down small and medium enterprises that depend so much on the internet, mobile money and social media to market, advertise and transact their businesses and this is of critical concern,” the petition partly reads.

“It is in the spirit of promoting national economy, stability and effective communication that we request for a recall of Parliament from recess to urge government to amend the Excise Duty Act,” the MPs further stated.

On Wednesday afternoon, MPs Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine(Independent, Kyadondo East), Maurice Kibalya (NRM, Bugabula South) and Herbert Ariko (FDC, Soroti Municipality) joined Karuhanga to address journalists at Parliament.

“If the people vehemently, strongly and unanimously are saying that we passed a bad law, it is our cardinal responsibility as Parliament to reconvene and reconsider this law,” Karuhanga said.

Karuhanga said that they were motivated by the cries of so many young people such as artists, journalists and bloggers who earn from being online.

Bobi Wine describe the law as “very oppressive.”
“Even if the majority of the people that contributed to debate opposed it, the majority that voted for it didn’t know what they were voting for,” the musician turned legislator said.

He said that while he had joined the efforts of recalling Parliament from recess to reconsider the law, the ultimatum he together with other artists and bloggers set for government to reconsider the law by midday on Friday still stands.

“This is not only a matter for MPs but every Ugandan; if nothing is done by midday on Friday, we are going to announce what is going to happen next,” Kyagulanyi said.

Ariko on his part criticized the tax as being intended to drive the population into poverty.

“As Parliament, we have a duty of fidelity, we have a duty of trust from the people who handed us their mandate by electing us, we therefore have to listen to their cries,” Ariko said.

Kibalya claimed that the tax had worsened the unemployment levels since many youths who were accessing job offers through social media platforms can no longer access the platforms.

“I get confused with what we are doing as leaders. We are trying to fight unemployment but then we are taxing the people who had created their own jobs through the internet and in essence telling them to get out the employment they had created for themselves,” the NRM legislator said.

Kibalya argued that instead of government taxing social media users, it should go for the big companies that are known for evading taxes.

“[The state minister for Planning David] Bahati conceded [on Tuesday] that it was a mistake to enact this law, let government also concede and withdraw the law,” Kibakya said.