Zambians have been paying doubles taxes before the 30 ngwee charge on Internet calls was introduced because government has failed to provide adequate services to meet citizens’ needs, says the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

In an interview with News Diggers! in Lusaka, Thursday, CUTS centre coordinator Chenai Makumba said Zambian consumers who are heavily taxed still use their salaries to access services, which ordinarily should have been provided by government.

“The impact of high taxes on the consumer means that their disposable income has reduced. This means that, the amount of money that they have to purchase the goods that they need to survive from day to day declines. With the rising inflation and increasing cost of living, this is detrimental to the consumers’ welfare. Taxes are supposed to be used by the government to enable them to provide public goods and services such as roads, hospitals, infrastructure. Government has failed to do so. But if the government fails to adequately provide these services, the consumer is essentially paying double,” Makumba argued.

“Firstly, the consumer is taxed by government, and then, secondly, if the public services are not provided, the consumer still has to use their remaining salary to pay for these goods and services that were supposed to have been already provided by their taxes. The latest issue of concern to the consumers has been the 30 ngwee tax per day on Internet phone calls. Consumers moved towards Internet phone calls because they were more affordable.”

She also said that the 30 ngwee charge on consumers was too aggressive and would negatively impact poor Zambians because it is a larger component of the majority of household budgets.

“For the government to begin to charge a tax on Internet phone calls means that the consumer not only has to pay for data, but for the Internet phone calls as well. Additionally, this tax is aggressive as it will have the most significant [impact] on low income consumers for whom 30 ngwee per day charge is a larger component of their budget. The government needs to increasingly realise that consumers are the most important agents of this economy. Without consumers, every single component of the economy comes to a standstill. To drastically reduce consumers’ incomes means that the amount they can spend to ensure that the economy continues to churn and, thus, contribute to the economic growth and development is, therefore, reduced,” observed Makumba.