THE imposition of 15% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on all meat products and cereals, in a move likely to trigger a sharp increase in the prices of most basic foodstuffs, is yet another indication of government’s insensitivity to the suffering of most Zimbabweans.
CANDID COMMENT BY FAITH ZABA
Cash-strapped consumers, already battling to survive in an ailing economy, have been dealt a major blow by the 15% tax on basic foodstuffs and goods.
The new tax regime, which became effective on Wednesday, was introduced by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa under Statutory Instrument (SI) 20 of 2017 and affects all meat products, including offals, pork and fish.
Other items that have been removed from the VAT zero-rated list of goods include potatoes, mahewu, peanut butter, margarine, cereals and rice.
Previously, products such as rice, fish and meat were exempt from the 15% VAT, which largely made the prices of these basic commodities relatively cheap and affordable for hard-pressed Zimbabweans, most of whom are flat broke and surviving from hand to mouth.
The introduction of the punitive tax comes at a time when the country is in the throes of a deepening economic crisis characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch that has resulted in a severe cash shortage, low capacity utilisation of less than 50%, company closures with at least 260 closing last year and massive job losses.
It is grossly unfair that government officials, after having spent money irresponsibly on thousands of ghost workers stuffed in various government ministries and funding Mugabe’s globetrotting jaunts to the Far East for minor medical procedures such as eye treatment, would want to punish the country’s citizens for their own recklessness.
Mugabe spent US$34,4 million in the first 10 months of last year when the government’s coffers are severely depleted amid a deepening economic crisis.
It is incongruous for the government to impose additional taxes on basic commodities at a time salaries have remained stagnant and where many workers have had salary cuts in the past few years. The unemployment rate has risen to over 95%.
So dire has been the unemployment rate that Zimbabweans who have worked hard to earn degrees have been reduced to airtime vendors and commuter omnibus touts. If the government was so desperate to raise revenues, it could have increased taxes on luxury goods, such as ministerial cars.
The latest move also shows that the government is now running out of ideas on how to sustain its operations and is now resorting to milking long-suffering citizens.
Zimbabweans have to contend with high taxes on one hand and numerous roadblocks, which are part of government’s desperate attempts to fleece law-abiding citizens, on the other hand.
At this rate, the government will have nobody to blame in 2018 should the electorate hit back. It would be no more than they deserve.