By Duncan Mlanjira
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter has commended the government for removing tax on radio and television broadcasting equipment as was announced by Finance Minister, Joseph Mwanamveka in his presentation of the 2020/21 National Budget in Parliament on Friday, June 12.
Mwanamveka said government had introduced a ‘Customs Procedure Code’ to allow duty free importation of television and radio eguipment in order to improve access to information and promote establishment of television and radio stations in the country.
“The removal of duty on radio and television broadcasting equipment follows lobbying by MISA Malawi and the Malawi media for government to scrape off duty on broadcasting equipment,” said MISA Malawi chairperson Theresa Ndanga.
“The removal of duty on broadcasting equipment will help broadcasters acquire high quality equipment at reduced cost.”
“We have also been lobbying for removal of VAT on newsprint, which is, however, still in force.
Ndanga, however, points out that promoting access to information requires a holistic approach which should include tackling all challenges that impede access to information.
She said this includes scrapping off VAT on newsprint and effective implementation of the legislation on Access to Information (ATI).
She adde that is a well-known fact in Malawi that newspapers, which are essential to democracy in access to information to the public and holding leaders accountable, are struggling with circulation figures because of the tough economic environment prevailing in the country.
“Extending the duty free clause to newsprint will be a clear demonstration of government’s commitment to media freedom and access to information.
“We, therefore, expect the government to consider scrapping off duty on newsprint and also set the date for the implementation of the ATI Act.
“Only then will we celebrate that government is sincere and committed to the promotion of access to information and free expression in Malawi,” Ndanga said.
In his budget presentation on tax policy measures, Mwanamveka stakeholders submitted their contributions most of the requests were mainly on tax exemptions and waivers, tax moratoriums and rebates with a view to supporting businesses and individuals that are struggling due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have slowed down and both tax and non-tax revenues have declined against increasing expenditure requirements.
Mwanamveka said Government has also been adversely hit by the impact of the pandemic thereby threatening its capacity to meet fiscal obligations as a result of this some tax policy proposals emanating from the pre-budget consultations have been deferred for possible consideration once the economic situation improves.
“In this regard, the tax revenue measures that will be outlined in this budget will aim at enhancing revenues whilst ensuring that a conducive environment is created for businesses to recover and provide some cushion to individuals.
“Madam Speaker, Honourable Members may wish to note that in April 2020, His Excellency the President announced measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which included in part; waiver of tourism levy to support the tourism industry, waiver of taxes on importation of essential goods for coronavirus management such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, soaps, water treatment chemicals, among others.
“Furthermore, Government has opened a voluntary tax compliance window for a period of six months to allow tax payers to settle their tax obligation arrears without penalty.
“Government has also waived Non Resident Tax for foreign doctors and medical personnel. I therefore wish to inform this August House that these directives were fully adopted and implemented.”