TAX complaints at Dar es Salaam port from people travelling from Zanzibar stirred an intense debate at the ongoing House of Representative session in the Isles on Friday.
Members of House of Representatives complained they are charged import duties on items they consider to be only gifts on arrival at the port from Zanzibar.
Any gift they carry, even a five kilogrammes of sugar, a television set, clothes or any hand luggage is seized by the custom officers particularly the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) officers, they said. Mr Jaku Hashim Ayoub, legislator for Paje constituency said he faced problems at the port when he was carrying small items as gifts to his hosts in the Mainland.
“This is the experience in my life yet there have been little efforts to enable people from Zanzibar carrying some gifts to enter the Mainland without problems.” “I ask respective authorities to ensure complete freedom of movement because we operate within the United Republic of Tanzania. It is sad for people from Zanzibar carrying small items, normally gifts or for personal use, to be alleged of tax evasion.”
The Minister for Trade and Industries, Ambassador Amina Salum Ali admitted to have received complaints about handling of travellers with items upon landing at Dar es Salaam sea port from Zanzibar. She said she has presented the matter to higher authorities and they have been included in the list of grievances of the Union for discussion.
“It is true that we have problems at entry points to Mainland if you carry something new, there is a perception among TRA offi cer that it is probably evading tax. The last time we discussed was in January this year during a meeting on union matters held in Dodoma,” she said.
Ms Ali said that at the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and also attended by the Second Vice President Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi and other senior Ministers from both governments, the Prime Minister directed tax authorities to address the matter.
“I have also discussed the issue with my colleague, Minister for Trade and Industry in the Mainland, but since TRA officers are directly involved, Finance Minister from Zanzibar and Mainland were asked to discuss and solve the problem,” Ms Ali said.
She said that while the union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika remains strong with no serious problems since it was created more than half a century, small inconveniences emerge just because of misconception by some executives like in the custom officers.
The Zanzibar trade minister said the complains against custom officers at Dar es Salaam port are among Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) affecting the movement of goods from Zanzibar to Mainland or the Inter- State Trade Balance, which mainly involve different commodities mainly food stuffs, electronic items, vehicles, medical supplies (medicines), and beverages, being transported to Dar es salaam.
She said there was a fall in the value of goods from Zanzibar to Mainland from 24.29bn/- in 2018 to 21.56bn/- last year, while goods brought to Zanzibar from Mainland stood at 260.67bn/- last year, also down compared to goods worth 269.67bn/- imported in 2018.
At international level, she said Zanzibar imported goods worth 346.88bn/- last year up from 335.84bn/- in 2018, and that the main types of goods imported include marine transport vessels, electronic goods, cloths, food (rice, sugar, and wheat flour).
At least 100,331 tonnes of rice, 30,362 tonnes of sugar and 41,904 tonnes of wheat flour were imported from abroad for local consumption, she said. However local production of goods was stable. Mahonda Sugar factory produced 6,674 tonnes of sugar and Zanzibar Milling Corporation 37,143 tonnes of wheat flour, she said.
The Minister urged investors in Zanzibar to improve and increase production of different products that meet international standard to win international market instead of focusing the market in Tanzania Mainland. “For example, the demand for Zanzibar sugar is very high in countries like the Comoro Islands.
This is an opportunity, you can sell your products in other countries instead of Tanzania mainland,” Ms Amina said.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, the Isles Industries Minister said Zanzibar’s grievances are known by higher authorities in the union government, and that discussions continue to find lasting solution, so that people from here can freely cross to the mainland with their small luggage or gifts.
However, commenting on some business people who import goods from abroad to Zanzibar in bulk and then transfer to Mainland, Mr Mohamed Raza HassanaAli, a prominent business man turned politician said that was unacceptable.
“Import duty charged on goods for Zanzibar consumption is low, compared to goods destined Dar es Salaam, therefore we cannot cheat.” He said that products madein Zanzibar and people entering mainland with hand luggage or gifts in small quantity should be allowed in mainland, but traders who re-route imports via Zanzibar should stop or pay required duties.