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Monday marked a start of a protests by vendors against the high tax increase and double taxation through the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing System (Efris). These strikes have caused chaos and unrest in the business community, with vendors shutting down their shops and taking to the streets to voice their frustration and dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs and this is not the first time that such strikes have taken place in the country, and it is unfortunate that this issue still persists. The business community, which is the backbone of funding for the government, feels neglected and excluded from the decision-making processes, even in the representation of the Ugandan parliament.

It has become a recurring issue, with vendors constantly facing increased taxes and the burden of double taxation. The government’s decision to implement the URA Efris system has only worsened the situation, leading to a significant increase in taxes for vendors and small business owners.  What is alarming is that while these vendors struggle to make ends meet and keep their businesses afloat, politicians are busy sharing billions among themselves, the business community, who are the biggest contributors to the government’s coffers, are often left struggling to make ends meet. This injustice has caused great frustration and anger among the vendors, leading them to take to the streets in protest. It is no secret that Uganda’s political landscape has been plagued with corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

The government’s response to the strikes has been lackluster, to say the least. President Yoweri Museveni’s scheduled meeting next week with the striking vendors may offer temporary relief, but it is not a lasting solution. The fact that this is not the first time such a meeting has been held speaks volumes about the government’s approach to addressing the concerns of the business community. Handing out small handouts to the leaders of the business community does not address the root cause of the problem. The current government seems to be more focused on maintaining its grip on power, rather than addressing the needs and concerns of its citizens. This has created a sense of hopelessness among the business community, who feel that they have been forgotten and ignored which has led to an increase in strikes and protests that disrupts the economy and cause inconvenience for the general public.

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To better address their concerns and grievances, the business community needs to have a representative who understands their challenges and advocate for their interests. This representative should not be a minister or member of any political party, but someone who solely represents the business community and their concerns. This could be in form of a business council or committee, made up of experienced and successful business owners who can provide valuable insight and guidance to the government.

In an ideal democracy, the opposition parties act as a check and balance to the ruling party. They are responsible for holding the government accountable and ensuring that the needs of all citizens, including the business community. However, these opposition parties are too busy bickering among themselves and embroiled in their own corruption scandals to effectively represent the concerns of the business community. This brings into question the true motives and ideologies of the opposition. Are they truly dedicated to serving the people and representing their interests, or are they simply too caught up in their own personal gains and power struggles to truly make a difference? By ignoring the issues faced by the business community, they are failing to fulfill their duties as opposition parties and are ultimately letting down the very people they claim to represent.

It is high time for the government to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the business community in Uganda. Providing handouts and temporary solutions will not solve the problem, but rather create a cycle of strikes and protests that disrupt the economy. The vendors are an essential part of the Ugandan economy, and their voices deserve to be heard. Having their own representative in parliament will give them a platform to express their concerns and work towards finding long-term solutions. The government must act now before the situation escalates, and the business community’s trust in the government is completely eroded.

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Wabusimba Amiri

Diplomate, Journalist, Communication Specialist and Human Right activist

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