Consumers still exploited despite Customs Union –Gov’t official

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the East African Community, Robert Ssali, yesterday said that although the country launched the customs union last year, tax reduction has not yet translated into lower prices on goods from within the bloc.
Permanent Secretaries Ernest Ruzindaza (Agriculture) and Alpha Mirembe (Cabinet Affairs) at the PS’ meeting yesterday. (Photo J Mbanda)
Permanent Secretaries Ernest Ruzindaza (Agriculture) and Alpha Mirembe (Cabinet Affairs) at the PS’ meeting yesterday. (Photo J Mbanda)

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the East African Community, Robert Ssali, yesterday said that although the country launched the customs union last year, tax reduction has not yet translated into lower prices on goods from within the bloc.

Ssali made these remarks during a workshop that was held by the ministry to sensitize Permanent Secretaries in various ministries on the integration process.

During his presentation on the EAC Customs Union, Ssali noted that it is not proper that people who have been paying 30 percent taxes continue to sell products at the same price.

“Most people in the business community take advantage of the fact that consumers lack knowledge on the benefits of the customs union. In this case, it is very clear that boosting efforts in creating awareness is key,” Ssali said.

He explained that if prices reduce as initially anticipated, Rwandans will be able to purchase more and get their money’s worth.

In relation to mitigating this problem, the official added that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has set up a team to examine prices and carry out a proper analysis of how prices should prevail.

Ssali added that regionally, there are also other experts who are helping to determine realistic prices based on the cost of production.

With an aim of reaping more from a wider market, participants were also urged to launch sensitization campaigns that aim at increasing production so that local demand is met and more products are exported to partner states.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, Alpha Mirembe, added that efforts will be put in expanding communication on the integration process so that even government officials can understand the purpose of being in the bloc.

“Forums like these are very informative and it is good that the next sensitization meeting will bring ministers on board. We are determined to play our role, especially now that we will soon be launching the common market.”

Partner states will, on July 1 this year, be integrated into a single market. Having in place this protocol will facilitate movement of persons, labour, services, capital, right of establishment and residence.

Officials also revealed that a regional communication strategy will also be established with the support of DFID, for purposes of increasing awareness of EAC issues.

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