Exemption or Concession of Internet VAT : Justification from Budget point
Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed, Former Deputy General and Commandant, Ansar VDP Academy: Perhaps Bangladesh is the only country where the internet business dealers raised their protest to the withdrawal of VAT from budget. But in other countries, the picture is quite different. It is not the company or dealer rather it must be a point from the consumers’ side.
How is the matter justifiable? It is a question of many people. In this regard there is a huge involvement of money. Despite that, the government has imported the internet from abroad and licensing authority of internet is given to the operators of the companies.
The companies having the privileges from government the companies sell out internet and all other mobile services to the consumers with much more profit. In our country, the state-run Teletalk is facing pressure from the other foreign companies.
This has happened only for the dishonest thinking of the other companies and their monopoly business over Teletalk. Of course, our native people are employed in the foreign companies. But the big bosses and the experts do not belong to us. So the companies are almost dominated by the outsiders. The locals remain silent and support their all illegal and unethical decisions and there are a group of people who have their mindset to enjoy being flattered. Over this weak mentality, the British people could rule and survive for long 200 years. There is a group of internet dealers who are commonly familiar as internet service provider. Most of them are youths of our country. We remember when the dial up of internet system was introduced, the internet service facility was ensured from door to door. They have at least tried to transmit the service for everybody, but in the long run the attempts of these youth ended in smoke. This entrepreneurship has been hijacked from the youth and it came to the door of particular section of giant businessmen. Back in 2000, many of us learnt from local dailies that one young man named Lipu from Bagerhat introduced a broadband service which was named as Bagerhat online. He had a very good initiative and by his efforts he himself made server from dial-up internet and it was connected to people’s house through cable wires.
Moreover, we know about AHM Bazulur Rahman of Charfession, Bhola, who used bamboo sticks as antenna for transmission of internet. Again we come to know about the initiative of the people of Srifaltala of Rampal upazila in Bagerhat where the project authorities of ‘Amader Gram’ could avail email using facilities through internet. In some villages of Rampal, the project authorities introduced GSM fixed telephoneby which dial-up internet service as well as fax service was introduced. This initiative failed for the complicacies by Grameenphone. But it was a good initiative. These innovation and the facilities could exist.
We know that the ISP dealers are supposed to have the licence from the government to run their business. The most noted thing is that 90% of our juvenile youths work with these ISP dealers. These people are very much technical service-oriented where we are simply laymen. The same case happened with the ISP dealers what happened to the mobile phone companies. But the current government for its internet friendly policy is trying hard to serve the middle and lower-middle class youths and with this view, the government has reduced the price by 80% subsidies. But the wholesalers and retailers bought it with the reduced rate. But the consumers could not get the reduced rate of internet. We see the different picture in this sector. In order to draw the sympathy of people and they again create pressure to reduce the VAT rate.
Bangladesh imports internet from abroad conforming the International Trade Center and its code of ethics. A local group with a less benefit and a little gain is hampering the targeted interest of the masses. It is clear that people are deceived by the mobile phone companies. The companies play tricks for exploitation.
About 90 million of people use internet. Among them the majority are categorized to mobile phone internet. It is almost 80.15 million. The rests are from Y-Max, ISP/PSTN or broad band. The big amount of revenue is being earned from this sector. If revenue size is not bigger how could we expect a bigger budget? If revenue is earned satisfactorily, there will be no budget deficiency.
The high demanding sectors may be well nourished with their optimum level of budget demand. The revenue is meant for people’s sake. Where there is a good revenue collection by taxes, VAT etc. there is a good budgetaryactivities. Otherwise, budget will not fulfill the people’s expectation and demand.