Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Malawi media welcome removal of VAT on newspapers

Misa Malawi Communiqué

12 June 2012

 The media fraternity in Malawi has welcomed the removal of Value Added
Tax (VAT) on newspapers, describing the development as good news which
is in the interest of the people?s right to information.

VAT on newspapers was introduced during late president Bingu Wa
Mutharika?s reign as one way of generating funds for the 2011/12
infamous Zero-Deficit Budget (ZDB), a blue print which attracted mixed
reactions among the country?s citizens, government authorities and the
donor community.

Commenting on VAT removal, chairperson of the Malawi Chapter of the
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi), Anthony Kasunda,
said the removal of 16.5 percent valued?added tax in the 2012/13
national budget was proof that the Joyce Banda administration was
serious about supporting the growth of the media industry in the

?This is good news for us and another good signal from government
about how they want journalists to work in a free environment and make
sure that information is accessible by everyone cheaply,? Kasunda

Finance Minister, Dr. Ken Lipenga announced the VAT removal when he
presented the 2012/13 financial budget in parliament on Friday, June
8, 2012.

Speaking on the same, Media Council of Malawi Chairperson Rev. Patrick
Semphere said the removal of VAT on newspapers was a welcome move and
a sign that government has goodwill for the media in the country.

Said Semphere: ?We (Media Council of Malawi) and MISA-Malawi have been
fighting for the removal of that tax. The removal is a step in the
right direction. It is an indication that government has goodwill at
heart for the media.?

General Manager for Blantyre Newspapers Limited, Dr. Tikhala Chibwana
also welcomed the removal of the VAT and added that the company would
go back to the drawing board to consider newspaper cover prices
because its adjustment to the current price was partly due to the VAT.

?That is a welcome development. I think the idea to tax public
information was a very wrong idea and government has done the right
thing. We have been speaking against it and for anybody in the media,
especially in print, that is what we expected,? said Chibwana.

Alfred Ntonga, deputy chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of
Nation Publications Limited, also hailed the removal of VAT on
newspapers, saying it is a step forward in correcting the many
mistakes made by the previous Mutharika administration.

?Access to information is a right in democratic Malawi. By imposing
VAT on newspapers which are already very expensive to produce, the
previous administration was simply pushing them beyond the reach of
the majority of Malawians,? he said.

Continued Ntonga: ?The so-called zero-deficit budget the previous
regime introduced last year required broadening the tax base, but I
strongly suspect that the real reason for the VAT on newspapers was to
reduce their circulation. The Mutharika administration was averse to
critical media.?

Malawi?s economy had been nose-diving for about a year after the late
Mutharika picked a fight with major donors, which led to a US$121
million budget hole in the 2011/12 fiscal year. However, the new
government of Joyce Banda, which came into power in April, has worked
to restore aid flows in addition to repealing repressive laws, most of
which were targeted at journalists.

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