By Mike Ssegawa
‘What does the Ugandan priest Yoweri Museveni smoke?’ The entire Uganda and people around the world who understand how social media operates must be loudly wondering!
Yes, Mr Museveni has instructed the ministry of finance and Uganda Revenue Authority to prepare to tax social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where he says Ugandans do lugambo (rumour mongering).
I should admit ignorance on how the President and his team will go about it. What I am however sure about are two things: social media usage is taxed through tax on air time. Now that Mr Museveni wants to pick out Facebook and twitter to tax, I am laughing out loud because I believe someone is either bewitching our president or he does not know what he is talking about or his aides want him to look bad! It is worse that his instruction is in writing!
I understand the President isn’t much aware of how new media work. And even if Mr Museveni is a quick learner when it comes to social media he has a long way to go.
Our tax base is narrow and it needs to be broadened. But the President looks like he has run out of ideas on how to do this. Taxing social media is like taxing oxygen or sunlight. He can hardly do anything about it unless he increases the tax on data! This would make the cost of data more expensive yet Uganda Internet is one of the most expensive in the region.
I will conclude by advising the President to take some water. Calm down. And stop day dreaming. Then, he should focus on helping Ugandans be more productive, especially enabling small and media enterprises. I believe home grown SMEs can employ more Ugandans than Museveni and his rusty technocrats can imagine.
Imagine if every Ugandan town has 100 SMEs employing 10 people it would mean over 1000 people employed by local enterprises in any given township. If this initiative is duplicated through out Uganda it would create a new tax base which can realised with proper mechanism of enforcement.
Expanding the tax base is a brilliant idea but thinking about taxing social media such as Facebook just proves how bankruptcy of ideas is fast invading the Ugandan principal.