Trade minister, UNBS to meet over digital stamps

Monday November 30 2020
finance01pix

UNBS plans to introduce digital tracking solutions on a number of high risk products such as cosmetics and beauty products. PHOTO/FILE.

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde has said she will this week hold a meeting with Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UNBS) officials to discuss the planned introduction of digital tracking solutions. 

UNBS last week confirmed it was planning to introduce digital tracking solutions in which it would conduct a phased implementation starting with high risk products such as cosmetics and beauty products, construction material, electricals and electronics.

The confirmation came after Daily Monitor published a story in which, during a stakeholders meeting, UNBS had told participants it was reviewing its regulations with the view of introducing digital tracking solutions at a cost of Shs42 per product to fight the manufacture of substandard goods. 

In a telephone interview at the weekend, Ms Kyambadde said she had issues with the matter [digital tracking solutions], noting she had been informed it is a Finance Ministry extension of the digital tax stamps implemented by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). 

“I have also had issues with that matter [digital tracking solutions] but Finance [Ministry] said it is endorsed in the digital tax stamps issue. I thought it was a bit premature, [considering that we are dealing with] Covid-19,” she said, noting she would give an official position on the matter after meeting UNBS officials this week.

UNBS says the implementation of the digital tracking solutions would be a phased, starting with high risk goods. 

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The move comes at a time when UNBS has indicated that 54 per cent of goods on the Ugandan market are substandard, warranting a measure through which consumers would be able to identify fake products.   

However, manufacturers and the private sector have already said the new measure is an unnecessary cost, which comes at a time when a number of manufacturers and businesses are struggling to shake off Covid-19-related effects. 

At the weekend, Mr Daniel Birungi, the Uganda Manufacturers Association chief executive officer, said they had laid out their case before UNBS, Finance and Trade ministries, noting they had explained the impact the new levy is expected to have on the ability of manufacturers to compete within and in the large East African Community. 

“We are extremely disturbed and saddened by this decision. But we are hopeful that government will see the value in putting together all these measures they are talking about under a single system that addresses all their concerns,” he said, wondering why different government agencies have to implement similar measures. 

However, UNBS has indicated that manufacturers currently under URA’s  digital tax stamps would be exempted from the one that is expected under the standards body. 

In September last year, amid resistance, government started implementing digital tax stamps on products such as wine, mineral water, cigarettes, spirits, beer and soda, among others.

While conducting a stakeholders meeting in Kampala about two weeks ago, UNBS noted that the continued proliferation of substandard goods had warranted the need to review current regulation to put in place new measures to protect consumers. 

The system, Mr John Paul Musimami, the UNBS deputy executive director in charge of compliance, said during the stakeholders meeting will be implemented in phases. 

Involve us     
The private sector has also decried the timing of the measures at a time when a businesses are struggling to recover.   

Mr Gideon Badagawa, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda executive director at the weekend told Daily Monitor he had had a meetings with UNBS officials, who had committed to involve the private sector in whatever they were doing.

“We should, especially manufacturers, be involved. We want to understand why they are doing this.” he said, noting UNBS must clearly explain how the measures will work and who will incur the cost of the stamps.

dnakaweesi@ug.nationmedia.com


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