‘Reduce airtime tax to cushion hard pressed citizens’- POTRAZ

Telecommunications regulator, POTRAZ has called on government to reduce the five percent tax on airtime to make tariffs more affordable for hard-pressed Zimbabweans who are facing a myriad of economic challenges.

This follows public outcry over an upward review of tariffs for voice and data services occasioned by developments emanating from the monetary policy pronouncements that saw the use of the RTGS dollar as main currency of trading and the introduction of the interbank rate for that currency against the US dollar.

The increase in financial pressure saw operators rationalize and review their data services promotions upwards.

“…we appreciate the outcry over the increases in bundled data tariffs as they are now beyond the reach of many and we sympathise with consumers. In this regard, the authority will continue exploring ways of making tariffs more affordable including ensuring improved network efficiencies and lobbying government to reduce taxes on airtime among other strategies,” Potraz director general Gift Machengete said.

The telecommunications regulator said while it is aware of the outcry, it must be taken into consideration that all three networks are offering bundled data of between 2 and 4 RTGS cents per megabyte which is below the approved 6 RTGS cent per megabyte.

He added that according to latest statistics from the Communications regulations Association of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is second only to South Africa in offering the lowest data rates in the region.

The regulator is currently caught in between a rock and a hard place in its bid to maintain operator viability and service affordability.

“As an authority, we are sensitive to the plight of consumers who are faced with a myriad of challenges, hence the need to keep tariffs affordable so as to cushion and protect consumers from operators who may wish to profiteer,” Machengete said.

“At the same time, the authority  need to ensure that operators remain in business, hence the need for a delicate balance between viability and affordability, which we try to maintain. This, we have been doing through a cost modeling exercise using the Long Run Incremental Costing models.”