Congolese parliamentary committee calls on government to end unpopular phone tax

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An official from the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) of Congo uses his phone to calculate the number of votes for the presidential election at the counting center in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, January 4, 2019. REUTERS / Baz Ratner

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KINSHASA, December 13 (Reuters) – A parliamentary committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has recommended that the government remove an unpopular “telephone tax”, saying it has not been able to trace the funds raised so far , according to a parliamentary report consulted by Reuters.

The tax, introduced by the telecommunications ministry last year, was intended to raise funds for the Congolese telecommunications regulator to register cellphones and other devices in a secure central registry.

At the end of a hearing last week, the budget and finance committee of the Congolese parliament urged the government to “put an end to the levy … whose resources are not traced either in the general budget or in the special accounts, ”according to the report.

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A government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not clear whether the government would follow the commission’s recommendation. The Congolese telecommunications minister has defended the tax in the past, saying it was necessary to pay the regulator for the secure central registry.

Last year, the government started charging $ 1.17 in tax in six installments for prepaid 3G and 4G mobile phones, and $ 0.17 for 2G phones, sparking anger among Congolese consumers and protests from parties. opposition.

There are more than 41 million connected cell phones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to government data.

Congolese consumer associations and opposition parties have said the introduction of the tax and the management of the millions of dollars raised so far are opaque.

A report from the Congo Senate Committee indicated in October that 30% of the revenue generated by the tax would go to the private service provider hired to implement the technical establishment of the central register, while 25% would go to the regulator, 40% to the government and 5% to telecom operators.

Joël Lamika, head of a national movement of Congolese consumers, welcomed the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, describing the tax as “a vast state swindle organized to steal an already poor population”.

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Reporting by Hereward Holland and Stanis Bujakera; Written by Bate Felix; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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