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Economists, MoMo vendors and users respond negatively to E-Levy passage

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Senior economists including a former finance minister, Mobile Money vendors and users have reacted negatively to the passage of the Electronic Transactions Levy bill into law by the current government.

The bill was passed into law last week by one-sided parliament due to a walkout staged by minority NDC members of parliament and subsequently filing court action at the Supreme Court for stay of execution to challenge the ‘lack of quorum’ in the House at the time of passage of the bill into law.

Mobile Money (MoMo) vendors across the country complained that, there were madrush withdrawals at their various mobile money vending outlets causing them to run out of cash which has tendency to collapse their petty business in the circumstances of the current economic hardship. However, it took the president, Nana Akufo Addo two working days to assent to the E-Levy law despite majority of Ghanaians haven openly kicked against the levy, especially taxing MoMo. An economics professor at the University of Ghana Business School shared his disappointment at the government for ignoring a better and progressive tax alternatives to push through the regressive E-Levy.

“There are more efficient, progressive, fairer and equitable means of generating more tax revenue by improving efficiency along with existing tax handles. How much this e-levy can raise is far lower than what we could have gained if we had passed the exemption bill in 2019”, Prof. Godfred Bokpin intuited. “During the 2019 SONA, the President told us that the biggest threat to Ghana’s revenue base is an exemption and told us that in 2018 alone, Ghana lost GHS4.66 billion and assured us that the new bill is being sent to Parliament. After all these years, nothing has been done. But look at the urgency with which we want to pass the e-levy. When you do that, you’re creating some sort of imbalance that says that the economy is set up to favour foreign capital against domestic capital formation and that is unfortunate.”

Also, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, a former Finance Minister, reacted sadly to the news of the passage. He described the President Nana Akufo-Addo’s administration and the NPP MPs as not a ‘listening government’.

Lamenting on his Facebook wall the morning after the e-levy was passed, Dr. Duffuor said, “The NPP has progressed in their passage of the unpopular e-levy bill. May it be on record that despite the hardship of the Ghanaian people and disaffection for the e-levy, the NPP ignored these concerns and added to our tax burden.”

Just like many well-meaning and experienced economic specialists, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor has, in the past, offered several suggestions on alternatives to the E-levy.

Dr. Duffuor, in an interview he granted on Starr FM in February this year, had said; “Currently in Ghana, foreign interests are largely the main beneficiaries of our extractive sector at the expense of Ghanaians who benefit from very little revenue from our natural resources”.

“We must start looking at the sector we have ignored over the years – the extractive sector. A well-managed natural resources centre has emerged as the safest route to prosperity in many developed countries such as the USA, UK, and Germany. We must go back and renegotiate our mining agreements for higher revenues rather than stick to colonial agreements to the detriment of our people”.

The levy rate was amended from 1.75 percent to 1.5 percent and will apply to electronic transactions that are more than GH¢100 daily.

Critics of the proposal have warned that this new levy will negatively impact the Fintech space, as well as hurt low-income people and those outside the formal banking sector.

The levy has been the source of tension in Parliament since it was introduced in the 2022 budget. The tensions culminated in a scuffle between lawmakers in Parliament in December 2021.

The government has, however, argued the levy would widen the tax net and that could raise an extra GH¢6.9 billion in 2022.

There are also concerns that the government may securitize proceeds from the e-levy to raise extra revenue.

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