...and this is the attitude of the Government when its people are suffering from Economic hardship that has affected the whole World Dar insists import duty on rice will remain at 75pc By DAVID MALINGHA DOYA THE EAST AFRICAN The Tanzania Revenue Authority has turned down calls by local authorities in Zanzibar to reduce import duty on rice to 25 per cent against the agreed East African Customs Union common external tariff (ECT) of 75 per cent. While we have forwarded their concerns to the EAC, we shall continue to observe the existing tariff, TRA commissioner general Harry Kitilya said. Zanzibar announced that it wanted the ECT reduced in the wake of rising prices for food globally, given that rice is a staple food on the islands. The business communities in other member states, particularly Uganda, have accused Kenyan and Tanzanian governments of inconsistency in implementing regional pacts such as the common external tariff, which came into force with the establishment of the Customs Union. Observers say that any review of tax policy on food in the region should not be done indiscriminately because the food crisis is global, and prices are increasing throughout the whole region for most foodstuffs. The East African Customs Union Protocol in any case provides mechanisms for correcting imbalances. Article 41 allows time for each partner state to consult and present its case, and requires that any decision reached as a result, be implemented in good faith. This means that a country that wants to review import duty on food against the agreed common external tariff can do so only with the consent of all governments in the EAC. There may be shortfalls in implementing regional policies, but this does not mean that it is government policy. We tax bodies are bound by the decisions that governments make, Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General Allen Kagina said. Recently, the Uganda Manufacturers Association accused both Kenya and Tanzania of not implementing the prohibition on polythene bags and plastic containers that was agreed upon last year to protect the environment. While Uganda ensured that polythene bags of below 30 microns where banned as agreed and ceased to be manufactured, Nairobi announced that it would only implement the ban starting this June. In Tanzania, the polythene bags under 30 microns were put into a category that attracts the 120 per cent prohibitive tax, while the rest attracted zero tax. Besides rice, sugar is the other product surrounded by controversy over implementation of the common external tariff. The Kampala City Traders Association reported that Tanzania and Kenya were charging 10 per cent as import duty on sugar coming from partner states in the Southern Africa Development Community, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa respectively, although the agreed common external tariff that Uganda implements, was 100 per cent. As the countries continue searching for practical solutions to the food crisis, prices continue to rise. On the global scene, the World Bank reports that food prices have increased by 80 per cent over the past three years. Over the past one year alone, the Food and Agriculture Organisation quotes a 40 per cent price increase leading to deadly social unrest in Egypt, Haiti, Cameroon, Senegal, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast. In addition to climate change, the global food crisis is being spurred by India and China consuming more meat. Locally, traders are trucking more fresh foods and beef cattle from Uganda and Kenya to Southern Sudan to take advantage of better prices.