Basing on the belief that access to clean water is a human right; a call has been made to government to scrap off Value Added Tax (VAT) on Water to enable every Ugandan including low-income consumers to also access clean tap water.
The proposal was made by students pursuing masters degrees in Public Infrastructure Management (MPIM) at Makerere University following their study tour to South Africa.
In May this year, a total of 22 second year masters students under MPIM visited South Africa and areas of study were roads and transport management, energy resources management and water resource and sanitation management.
The team that undertook a water tour study found out that 92% of South Africans have access to clean water while in Uganda, 67% have access to clean drinking water.
The senior monitoring and evaluation officer in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Josephine Apajo while presenting findings of the study on behalf of other students, said South Africa removed VAT on water, almost everyone can access clean water and this has among other advantages reduced cases of diseases related to consumption of unclean water.
“Uganda should borrow a leaf from South Africa and increase the percentage of people accessing clean water. One of the ways to do so is through scrapping off vat on piped water,” she said.
“Access to safe and clean water is a human right; everybody should be given water for free, this will help in addressing challenges involved in consuming dirty water like outbreak of water borne diseases like typhoid, cholera” she added.
In 2013 while still the Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka reintroduced 18% VAT on water for domestic and government projects with the purpose of collecting sh8b in revenue to fund the sh13.1 trillion 2013/14 budget.
In addition, Apajo revealed that while in South Africa sanitation is under the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, in Uganda there is no specific ministry in charge of sanitation.
She proposed sanitation in Uganda be part of Water and Environment ministry.
This was during the MPIM study tour dissemination seminar held at the main campus and organized by Makerere College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS).
Umar Kakumba, associate professor and Dean, CoBAMS said the health budget is escalating every financial year; removing VAT on water would be beneficial because it means many people would be able to access clean drinking water and disease outbreaks would be minimal thus cutting costs on treatment.
He however noted that research is necessary to determine whether it is a tangible solution and its impact.
The guest of honour Dr. Henry Rubarenzya, the Head of Research and Development, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) said the challenges affecting the infrastructure sector are largely corruption, budget limitations, bureaucracy, poor quality infrastructure, high cost of the infrastructure and inadequate local competent and skilled labour.
To address these challenges, he said leadership and management skills take centre stage in addition to key capabilities required to make a significant impact to the infrastructure including innovation, public funds management, and human capital development.
“We have to deliberately build skills through continuous training, exposure, internships and rightful deployments,” he said.
On the proposal to scrap VAT on water, Rubarenzya said it is a proposal that has to be looked at holistically.
He reasoned that some development partners like World Bank are halting financial support to Uganda, government is looking for ways to get money and run projects in various sectors, therefore removing VAT on water would not be a good idea.
Not the best of times for Zimbabwe’s tourism industry. Tourist arrivals were down by 20% in 2015 in comparison to the previous year, according to the Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators, the reason was, quite predictably, the largely reported Ebola outbreak, which put the whole world in danger, but had its center in West Africa.
The industry isn’t backing down, though, and several actions have been put in place in order not only to improve on last year’s disappointing results, which saw companies suspending the payment of bonuses, but also beat 2009, a record-year for Zimbabwe.
Tourism stakeholders expect a 10% rise in demand, but insiders estimate that big marketing campaigns will be needed for companies to accomplish their goals.
2004’s Ebola outbreak cost Zimbabwe a whopping $6 million, as cancellations rained down and buyers withdrew from the important tourism expo, but the Zimbabwe tourism authority believes the industry is making its recovery.
Meanwhile, neighboring Zambia has been visited by an estimated 1 million tourists last year, registering a 3.24% growth on average over the last five years. According to Zimbabwe tourism insiders, a similar growth could be within reach if the Victoria Falls International Airport was to be completed.
The completion of the airport could make a really significant difference for the country, as it would triple the handling capacity of the Victoria Falls airport, allowing more airlines to be licensed in Zimbabwe and increasing the number of passenger to 1.2 million, where it now lays around 400,000.
Unfortunately, the introduction of VAT on foreign tourists’ expenses has not helped the industry’s case, and neither has the devaluation of African currencies like the South African rand, both of which have taken a further toll on tourism, especially seeing as South African tourists were responsible for a slight boost to the industry in 2015.
It isn’t just the overzealous actions of local governments or the scare of infectious diseases that is casting a shadow over Zimbabwe tourism though. Two lion sub-species, which are mainly found in the region, have been considered endangered, and a ban on hunting products is pending the US government’s approval.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Council has reacted to this impending ban by expressing its disappointment with this action which might have substantial impact on the hunting industry and thus on the already crippled tourism industry of the country.
USA is the biggest market for Zimbabwe’s hunting packages, which are likely to be affected, but the ban also causes fear that other countries will follow such example. The argument behind these fears is that hunters will be discouraged by the fact that they can’t import their hunted goods, and they will stop hunting altogether.
The ban comes after a tourist shot ‘Cecil, the Lion’, a popular Zimbabwe attraction, and is only the latest in a growing list of bans on local hunting products.
Hunting will be one of the main topics of the 2016 Tourism Convention, to be hosted in Victoria Falls from February 10 to 12, an event aimed at encouraging the various sectors, including the people and government, to get involved in the tourism industry.