We are Poor Because WE have Decided To be Poor

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      I recently went to the land office at District offices to pay land taxes of my plot. Not too late, I learned that the previous owner never bothered about taxes for the past four years! Who wouldn’t be shocked? I was left with a dilemma so big that made me do a bit of thinking and research. It is always good to understand the provenance and roots of every issue if one expects to propose a solution. Therefore, the issue of paying taxes is definitely a big problem; not only for the people but also for the majority of governments both in Africa and the rest of the world. 

      The people of African Nations must learn to be accountable to their governments to enable their governments to be accountable to them. If we, as a people, are expecting infrastructure and technology developments in our countries, we must help and work with the government. Development, Hospital facilities, even university scholarships for our brothers, sisters and our  children will not and CANNOT come out of thin air! We must realize that we are accountable to our governments if we are to expect anything back from them.

      Should the African people wait for Western nation’s Aid and support? Should the African people be fully and solely dependent on  charity from abroad? When would we be expected to move out of the stagnant poverty afflicting us and being the leading cause of most of our conflicts? Africa must get up and tap existing opportunities for taxes. Taxes are not meant to harm  people but to help the people and their nations. 

      It is high time that the African continent moves out of its dependency on Western support and aid. The source of this support is none other than the taxes of the western tax payers – the citizens of the western world. If these citizens are able to sustain themselves and even others, why can’t the African people? The government has to educate people to make them responsible and accountable. It is the duty of the government to make sure that the task of paying taxes is uncomplicated and straightforward.

       Going back to my dilemma, when I resolved to pay for the previous accumulated taxes, I was led to yet another problem. I first went to the  District land office to pick up the Land Invoice  and then to the bank for paying the taxes, . Then, I had to go to the sector office to  give the  bank slip to the accountant and be provided with a payment receipt. I again had to return to the district to get an acknowledgement receipt that would finalize my task. It took me six full hours to have the documents ready; thanks that Ihad requested for leave from my Job; from one office to another back and forth. I came to the point where blaming the citizens was unfair. It requires a lot of courage for people to run from offices looking for letters and receipts. This might be one of the reasons why citizens are reluctant to go through the hassle of paying taxes.

      The government, especially in this case of Rwanda, should utilize  Information Technology to ease the hassle of taxpaying. It should not be necessary to run through eight to ten offices to fulfill the duties necessary for taxpaying. I might not be close to Steve Jobs and types but here is a suggestion of software that would greatly help the taxpaying process. First, there should be, through  information Technology a software that would let the bank receive the required amount and send  a short text message(SMS)  directly to both the district and sector. These two offices should receive acknowledgement receipts from the bank in the name of the taxpayer. This would reduce the hassle of running from offices back and forth. The taxpayer should in turn receive an e-receipt from the  district and the setor acknowledging the payment. This would be the receipt that would be taken directly to the taxpaying main office (Rwanda Revenue Authority).

       Educating and encouraging the citizens to pay taxes should involve making the process more straightforward and trouble-free. Although the people are accountable to their governments, the government is also responsible for the delays and reluctance of its people. I do not think that there are many citizens who enjoy running in several offices for a simple letter or invoice. With the rise of technology, this issue should be addressed as quickly as possible as a means to encourage the citizens in their taxpaying duties.

       The poverty in Africa takes deep roots in ignorance and dependency; as soon as the nations and the citizens will take more efficient steps in making the taxpaying process citizen-friendly. These steps will play a pivotal role in moving the African citizen from dependence  of other people’s taxes  to autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Joseph RyarasaNkurunziza is a Public health Expert and a Social Justice Activitist he can be reached at ryarasa@ryarasa.org

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