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Letter from the President: You talk, we tax

Woman On Cell Phone

Mon, 3 Dec 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents I hope you have heard the news already. If you haven’t, I’m very happy to be the one breaking it to you. From next year, we are going to tax you for talking on your mobile phone. Yes, you will pay an extra pesewa a minute in addition to what the phone companies will actually charge you for talking. Call it a talk tax and you’d be hitting the nail right on the head.

Why are we introducing this talk tax?

Well, there is a two-fold reason. First we need money. Our country is broke. Very broke and we need money to carry out some vital development projects – such as building the presidential mansion and other presidential lodges. We also need money to pay for my numerous travels. And next year being my last, trust me, I’m going to be racking up the frequent flyer miles. Also we need money to pay for other governmental extravagances, such as paying the salaries of our many ministers and footing all their bills as well as making sure that they drive around in the luxury of the very latest Chryslers and Peugeots. Some of the money will also be used to clear the debts we incurred as a result of the Sikaman@50 celebrations. We also need money for less sensible things like building hospitals and roads… and mind you, in the year to come we intend to build at least 15 kilometres of new road in every district. Apart from being politically sensible and a potential vote-buyer, this policy of building new roads in every district forms part of a grand plan to bring development to every nook and cranny of our dirty country. How can we achieve all this if we don’t tax you?

The problem, however, is that we seem to have run out tax ideas. In fact, we’ve run out of stuff to tax. Almost everything is taxed these days. Even pure water has a tax on it. We tax you before you eat. We tax you when you buy petrol. We tax you when you travel. We tax you when you decide to keep your own money in the bank. We even tax you when you die because there is VAT on your coffin.

So faced with the challenge of raising funds to pay for the Sikaman@50 expenses among others, one of grateful stooges who pass as ministers of state (in fact one of those who is bereft of ideas most of the time) came up with the suggestion that we can raise a lot of cash simply by taxing people for being silly enough to talk on their mobile phones. His initial idea was that we should impose a tax on anyone who calls into a radio station or sends a text message. But upon further discussion, we came to the conclusion that we should impose a tax on anyone who dares to make a mobile phone call.

This mobile phone call tax will not only bring money into the state coffers. It will also help us resolve one of the most difficult problems this government has faced since it came to power. You see, there are more than seven million mobile phone handsets in this country. Most of them came into this country unnoticed (and therefore untaxed). So we have decided that instead of wasting our time trying to track down people who bring mobile phones into the country to sell, we would rather punish the poor woman at Makola for being so unpatriotic to buy and use an undeclared mobile handset. In other words, we would punish the hapless end user for the crimes of rich, well-connected phone seller, who usually contributes to our party and often gives government officials the latest handsets to use for free.

If this doesn’t convince you that this is the most ingenious government this country has ever had, I don’t know what will. We are the first government to boldly challenge people to keep smuggling goods into the country because we are very confident that the more they smuggle in, the more money we stand to make… not for ourselves, but for the nation. It’s brilliant.

But as usual, I’ve heard a few voices of needless dissent. Having been in power for almost two full terms, I’m experienced enough to know that no policy initiative will go unchallenged and so I’m not perturbed. The voices of dissent claim that the proposed mobile talk tax is harmful because it is going to slow down the pace of growth in the mobile phone industry. Why should this matter to me? If I get my tax revenue and the industry’s growth is “slowed” but not halted, who would lose.

I’ve heard people say that we are going against the norm by imposing more taxes on mobile telephony because country’s like India and Bangladesh have seen a telecoms boom because of the progressive elimination of taxes. Well, good for them. That’s how they choose to run their countries. For me, I just want the taxes. And who says we don’t have a boom in the telecoms sector already, anyway? Even those who sell roasted plantain by the roadside are using mobile phones. A little tax won’t hurt them, will it?

I’m not being dictatorial with this. I’m not saying that it’s should either be my way or the highway and that’s why this issue is going to be debated in parliament. All those who are against this mobile talk tax can complain all the want. It is their constitutional right to do so. But I am confident that eventually, might (which is not usually right) will prevail. I am also very sure that if and when the law is passed for this obnoxious tax (in your opinion) to be legalised, you will learn your lesson. What lesson? Quite a simple one, really: it doesn’t do anyone any good for any one party to dominate parliament. ‘Skirt and blouse’ voting is the way to go in 2008. I hope you get my point. Stop thinking about the tax for a moment; try and take in the bigger picture and you will get my point.

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents I hope you have heard the news already. If you haven’t, I’m very happy to be the one breaking it to you. From next year, we are going to tax you for talking on your mobile phone. Yes, you will pay an extra pesewa a minute in addition to what the phone companies will actually charge you for talking. Call it a talk tax and you’d be hitting the nail right on the head.

Why are we introducing this talk tax?

Well, there is a two-fold reason. First we need money. Our country is broke. Very broke and we need money to carry out some vital development projects – such as building the presidential mansion and other presidential lodges. We also need money to pay for my numerous travels. And next year being my last, trust me, I’m going to be racking up the frequent flyer miles. Also we need money to pay for other governmental extravagances, such as paying the salaries of our many ministers and footing all their bills as well as making sure that they drive around in the luxury of the very latest Chryslers and Peugeots. Some of the money will also be used to clear the debts we incurred as a result of the Sikaman@50 celebrations. We also need money for less sensible things like building hospitals and roads… and mind you, in the year to come we intend to build at least 15 kilometres of new road in every district. Apart from being politically sensible and a potential vote-buyer, this policy of building new roads in every district forms part of a grand plan to bring development to every nook and cranny of our dirty country. How can we achieve all this if we don’t tax you?

The problem, however, is that we seem to have run out tax ideas. In fact, we’ve run out of stuff to tax. Almost everything is taxed these days. Even pure water has a tax on it. We tax you before you eat. We tax you when you buy petrol. We tax you when you travel. We tax you when you decide to keep your own money in the bank. We even tax you when you die because there is VAT on your coffin.

So faced with the challenge of raising funds to pay for the Sikaman@50 expenses among others, one of grateful stooges who pass as ministers of state (in fact one of those who is bereft of ideas most of the time) came up with the suggestion that we can raise a lot of cash simply by taxing people for being silly enough to talk on their mobile phones. His initial idea was that we should impose a tax on anyone who calls into a radio station or sends a text message. But upon further discussion, we came to the conclusion that we should impose a tax on anyone who dares to make a mobile phone call.

This mobile phone call tax will not only bring money into the state coffers. It will also help us resolve one of the most difficult problems this government has faced since it came to power. You see, there are more than seven million mobile phone handsets in this country. Most of them came into this country unnoticed (and therefore untaxed). So we have decided that instead of wasting our time trying to track down people who bring mobile phones into the country to sell, we would rather punish the poor woman at Makola for being so unpatriotic to buy and use an undeclared mobile handset. In other words, we would punish the hapless end user for the crimes of rich, well-connected phone seller, who usually contributes to our party and often gives government officials the latest handsets to use for free.

If this doesn’t convince you that this is the most ingenious government this country has ever had, I don’t know what will. We are the first government to boldly challenge people to keep smuggling goods into the country because we are very confident that the more they smuggle in, the more money we stand to make… not for ourselves, but for the nation. It’s brilliant.

But as usual, I’ve heard a few voices of needless dissent. Having been in power for almost two full terms, I’m experienced enough to know that no policy initiative will go unchallenged and so I’m not perturbed. The voices of dissent claim that the proposed mobile talk tax is harmful because it is going to slow down the pace of growth in the mobile phone industry. Why should this matter to me? If I get my tax revenue and the industry’s growth is “slowed” but not halted, who would lose.

I’ve heard people say that we are going against the norm by imposing more taxes on mobile telephony because country’s like India and Bangladesh have seen a telecoms boom because of the progressive elimination of taxes. Well, good for them. That’s how they choose to run their countries. For me, I just want the taxes. And who says we don’t have a boom in the telecoms sector already, anyway? Even those who sell roasted plantain by the roadside are using mobile phones. A little tax won’t hurt them, will it?

I’m not being dictatorial with this. I’m not saying that it’s should either be my way or the highway and that’s why this issue is going to be debated in parliament. All those who are against this mobile talk tax can complain all the want. It is their constitutional right to do so. But I am confident that eventually, might (which is not usually right) will prevail. I am also very sure that if and when the law is passed for this obnoxious tax (in your opinion) to be legalised, you will learn your lesson. What lesson? Quite a simple one, really: it doesn’t do anyone any good for any one party to dominate parliament. ‘Skirt and blouse’ voting is the way to go in 2008. I hope you get my point. Stop thinking about the tax for a moment; try and take in the bigger picture and you will get my point.

Taxingly yours,
J. A. Fukuor
fukuor@gmail.com

Columnist: Daily Dispatch