The government has said it has no plans to withdraw the recently imposed monthly tax of 1,000/- on every SIM card unless research proves that it has negative impact on the public.
Finance Deputy Minister Saada Mkuya Salum told The Guardian in a telephone interview that the government had discussions with Mobile Operators Association of Tanzania (MOAT) before the Finance Bill was approved by Parliament.
The Deputy Minister said claims made by MOAT were not solid because they were involved in discussions prior to imposition of the charge.
Salum said the argument that the fee will deny the poor access to mobile communication services is not logical because the 1000/- fee per month is a small amount and will not affect customers directly as it will be deducted in portions and sporadically.
She said the government has been losing revenues for many years from mobile phone operators, hence the move to introduce the monthly fee which will be channeled to education sector.
“We did not come up with the idea from nowhere… thorough research which involved key stakeholders including mobile operators was conducted,” she said.
She said the government will not withdraw the fee unless it conducts another research and proves that the 1,000/- a month charge affects mobile phone users, “besides it’s only been a few weeks since endorsement of the bill.”
“The intention of the government was to ensure that every person owning a mobile phone contributes to the country’s development and not to deny them access to communication services as claimed by mobile operators,” said the deputy minister.
According to MOAT, the monthly SIM Card fee has a huge impact on users because it has not considered their income status, specifically whether one uses five minutes and another one uses several hours of airtime per month, they are both charged the same amount.
MOAT’s statement said out of the approximated 22 million users of mobile phones, 8 million will be affected since they use less than 1000/- in airtime a month.
MOAT reasoned that the fee will hamper the progress made in the communication sector whereas services were getting more and more affordable for all, something that will risk all the rural expansion initiatives championed by the Universal Communications Services Access Fund (UCSAF).
They argue that the fee will also delay further expansion of mobile phone services in rural areas especially among the poor.
There are 23 million Tanzanians who currently do not use mobile phones services.
MOAT called on the government to reconsider the 1,000/- monthly fee per SIM Card to facilitate further growth of telecommunications regardless of income variations.
Giving his views on the monthly fee, Kigoma-North legislator Zitto Kabwe said the bill means an ordinary citizen will pay a similar amount to that paid by an MP who has a monthly salary of 11.2m/- excluding allowances.
He questioned the government’s silence on the matter, saying the bill is very rudimentary, calling upon the people to reject it.
Zitto said the proposed bill was withdrawn by Finance Minister while tabling the national budget and wondered how it found its way back into the house via the finance bill.