Over the past three months, the Revenue Protection Unit impounded 80 tonnes of contraband second-hand clothes as they were being sneaked into the country. According to Rwanda Revenue Authority, the smugglers nabbed had evaded over Rwf200 million in taxes.
The enforcement agencies and members of the public that tipped off the Police unit should be commended for a job well done. Cooperation between security agencies and the public, particularly border communities, is central to efforts aimed at curbing the vice that deprives the country of revenue in terms of taxes.
This also sends a clear signal to unscrupulous business operators that the security agencies will not relent in the fight against fraud and smuggling cartels. Smuggling endangers the economy through lost revenue as well as dumping that exposes Rwandans to health risks as most of the contraband are not certified for safety.
The vice also creates unfair competition in the marketplace, which disadvantages genuine traders and affects growth of local industry. Already, the manufacturing sector is struggling with the threat of substandard products on the market. Acts and vices like these have made local products less competitive, hurting economic growth prospects and efforts geared at job-creation.
They also affect initiatives to boost export receipts and reduce the growing trade deficit. That’s why the public needs to continue working with enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend those engaged in illegal business, including smugglers and counterfeiters.
There is also need for policy review to make smuggling risky business as a deterrent measure. In some countries, smugglers and counterfeiters are regarded as economic saboteurs and punished harshly to discourage the practices.
In addition, the RPU should be better equipped to strengthen surveillance capacity as some smugglers use ungazetted entry points. Vigilance by the public is also essential in the fight against smugglers, particularly those that use footpaths and are hard to be detected by the authorities.