On 21 December 2014, parliamentarians voted a law revising the budget for 2015. The law allows the Burundi government to increase the tax on mobile calls.Both citizens and foreigners warn against taking strict measures against the law.-By Jean Berchmans Siboniyo
The imposed tax is Bif 42 per minute on local calls.Another new tax of $0.16 on incoming calls from abroad was imposed last year. At the same time, telecommunication companies are already forced to pay other taxes, which are imposed per minute.The new tax also concerns calls within the EAC member States.
The consequences will weigh heavily on the population and on the government itself, as companies of telecommunication indicate. CyrilleNibigira, the Chairman of the Sectoral Chamber of Technologies, Information and Communication (CSTIC), in his note describing the impact of the new tax on phone calls, says the government should learn from the fact that incoming calls from abroad decreased to 2.3 million from 6.5 millionminutes per month when they increased the tax to $0.32,before again reducing it to $0.16 .The same institution also shows that the tax will affect the population very much since the telephone is no more a tool for luxury but an indispensable device for everyday life for both the poor and the rich.
Gabriel Rufyiri, the Chairman of Olucome, an organization against corruption and economic embezzlement, in a letter he wrote to the Head of Burundi parliament, mentions the tax is heavy and unbearable and asks that it be suppressed. He warns that his institution ‘may take lawful and necessary measures against the unjust law.’
Pierre Nduwayo, the Spokesman of Abuco, the association of consumers in Burundi, indicates that the government will be disadvantaged. “They will lose even what they were earning. People will reduce calls and communicate by messages”, he says.
“I will quit calling. I will use social networks like viber, whatsapp, and other messenger applications instead”, says Alexander Persson, a friend of Burundi living in Sweden, after learning of the increasing of the call price per minute.
Another Burundian living in London, England, who didn’t want to be identified, shares Persson’s view. She explains that she has quit calling Burundi because it is expensive. “I use other messenger applications when I want to have news of my family”, she says.
Joseph Ndarusanze, a Burundian living in Switzerland mentions the tax weighs very heavy on Burundian population.