Hon Mukasa Mbidde, EALA legislator
Nine months after South Sudan joined the East African Community, questions have arisen on what kind of pace and approach the bloc will take to accommodate the world's youngest state, writes JOSEPH OLANYO.At a one day dialogue on “How South Sudan’s Admission to the EAC will Influence the Shape and Pace of the Region’s Integration” organized by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung East Africa in Kampala on November 25, stakeholders raised various critical viewpoints on the new member of the block, and its implications on regional integration.
Policymakers, analysts, academics and civil society contend that South Sudan needs serious structural transformation and stability if it is to influence the shape and pace of EAC integration.
“South Sudan does not have functional institutions to qualify it as a state. It is simply being invited to join EAC because of the market,” said Biel Boutros Biel, executive director South Sudan Human Rights Society for Development (SSHURSA)
Biel said the South Sudanese are joining the EAC for selfish reasons. He, however, noted that there is a possibility that South Sudan may leave the EAC when it gets a functioning government.
“Let’s create stability and institutions, not those that are personalized. The stability should be the implementation of the peace accord. Removing Salva Kiir or Machar will not solve the problem of South Sudan,” Biel said.
Hundreds of Ugandans today took to the streets of the capital Kampala to protest against a move by Members of Parliament to exempt themselves from paying income tax off their allowances.Over 500 citizens and activists from different parts of the country assembled at Railway headquarters grounds and matched to UMA show grounds in Lugogo from where they read a statement to the president asking him to stop the ‘greed’ exhibited by Ugandan legislators.With the bolice band in the lead, and several police officers guiding protestors through the journey, they marched through the streets carrying placards and banners, with messages castigating MPs for plotting to evade taxes.'I pay my tax why not you,' read one of the inscriptions on a manila placard, among so many other messages. Protestors told URN that tax evasion is both undemocratic and irresponsible.Mugoya Wilson, a protestor from Iganga district said that by exempting themselves from paying taxes, legislators are proving that they do not care about the welfare of the rest of the country. He adds that payment of taxes should be a responsibility of every citizen, specifically those holding positions of leadership.
URA commissioner General Doris Akol said the tax body is keen on stopping outflows arising from smuggling, among other activities.
Kampala- Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has pledged to support the campaign to end the Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) that are draining the country’s economy as well as that of the continent.
The ‘Stop the Bleeding’ campaign seeks to end plunder from the African continent.
IFFs are illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another.
At the weekend, Ms Doris Akol, the URA Commissioner General told Daily Monitor that they will certainly support the campaign that was recently launched in Uganda.
“Yes (we shall support the programme) part of [our plan to] increase domestic revenues is stopping IFFs outflows, especially those arising from smuggling, trade, misinvocing, transfer pricing and other forms of aggressive tax planning. URA is already involved in some aspect of curbing IFFs,” she said.
Africa, according to the High Level Panel report released last year, loses more than $50 billion (about Shs165 trillion) annually in illegal capital outflows.
Much of this money is lost through illegal activities supported by multinationals.
However, civil society organisations such as Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), Action Aid and Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) have been at the centre stage of fighting the outflow that they put at more than $509m (Shs1.5 trillion) annually out of Uganda in particular.
The amount lost is more than or equivalent to 60 years of budget for government agencies such as the National Bureau of Standards, an institution mandated to, among other things, get rid of substandard and potentially life-threatening counterfeit products flooding the country.
It is also nearly a half of the budget allocated to key sector ministries such as that of Agriculture.
The campaign was launched in Kampala last month to advocate for policy reforms that can empower institutions such as URA to mobilise more taxes from multinationals.