Unguja. At least five issues dominated the debate of Zanzibar’s Sh1.8 trillion budget for the financial year 2021/22 that was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday last week.
Among the heavy arguments included those about property tax, the abuse of women and children, blue economy investment, tax reduction on some products and creating a good environment for tourism.
The debate about property tax seemed to have touched every member of the House of the Represantatives, who got the chance of making a contribution to the budget as the government had proposed to charge Sh10, 000 per storey building.
Mtambwe Representative Habib Ali Muhamed argued that the government should put things in the open about who was really supposed to pay the tax after many residents started being worried about paying the property tax.
“Members of the public are supposed to be educated first before rushing to impose the tax because that is a new thing for Zanzibaris. This is because it could create some problems,” said Mr Muhamed.
However, Mr Muhamed advised that the tax should start being imposed on business property instead of ordinary buildings.
For his part, the Pandani Representative, Prof Omar Faki Hamad, argued that the government had contradicted itself when it said it had no intention of imposing any tax on local products, but instead it proposed to impose tax on property.
“If we really intend to impose the tax, then it should not be this year as we need to wait until education has been provided to our people,” argued Prof Faki.
Prof Faki also argued that the government’s proposal that the companies registered on the mainland should also be taxed in Zanzibar could make many firms to close businesses in the on the isles.
The lawmaker instead advised that the issue should be looked at its broadness, warning that it could affect the trend of businesses.
When postponing the meeting, the Second Vice President cleared the air by saying that the tax would not affect those using buildings for private settlements, but would affect those using them for hire and Sh10, 000 would be imposed on every storey building.
On waiving tax on some products, Micheweni Representative Shamata Shaame Khamisi argued that there would be no problem, but warned that some dishonest businessmen would use that loophole to benefit themselves.
The products with no Valued Added Tax are edible oil, cement, rods and iron sheets.
Contributing to the blue economy debate, Chwaka Representative Issa Haji Ussi said many issuesd that reflected to the blue economy were not mentioned in the budget.
“If we really want to sing one song about the blue economy, then we need to look at this area of the blue economy so that we can support the youth and many jobs to be available. But, it has not been mentioned in the plan,” said Ussi.
Women’s Representative Salma Mussa Bilai argued that men were abusing women and children without fear.
“This issues hurts everybody beyond compare, but we as women are more affected, men are neither afraid of nor stop doing so. We need to find new strategies of ending the problem,” said Ms Salma.