Telecom operators in Ghana are worried about why the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA) charge the operators higher taxes than other organisations for the same things.
The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications recently pointed out that the telecom operators were overburdened with multiple taxes at both the national and local levels.
Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana Cynthia Lumor buttressed the point during an interview with Adom News saying that it was worrying that the MMDAs would charge the telecom operators up to GHC15,000 for a particular thing, and charge other organisations GHC1,000 for the same thing.
Figures from Local Government Bulletin published on May 14, 2010 give credence to the worry of the telecom operators.
The Bulletin showed that for General Utility Excavation Permit (i.e. permit for utility service providers - water, electricity, telecom - to dig the ground and lay their cables and fibre), the Birim South District Assembly, for instance, charged MTN and Tigo GHC7,500 and GHC6,500 respectively, while other utility providers like ECG paid between GHC500 and GHC1,000; that is some 750% higher for telecom operators.
Again, the Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa District Assembly charged MTN, Zain (Airtel), Tigo and GT (Vodafone) GHC9,000 as Property Rate, but charged other multinationals like the commercial banks GHC700, insurance companies GHC200, ECG, GHC1,000, Ghana Water, GHC400, SSNIT, GHC1,000 and Financial services GHC400 among others.
That was 800% higher for telecom operators than the next highest amount, and 4,500% higher than the lowest paid by other institutions mentioned; and some institutions even paid lower rates.
Cynthia Lumor noted that, such discriminatory fees and levies, coupled with several others from institutions like Environmental Protection Agency, Town and Country Planning, Ghana Civil Aviation and others adversely affected their network expansion efforts to reach deprived areas.
She noted that added to the multiple and discriminatory taxes, residents of communities under the MMDAs also complain of poor services and yet they stand in the way of tower erection to provide better services, citing unfounded fear that radiation from towers could cause health problems.
“Telecom operators need to mount masts and lay cables and fibre in order to reach deprived communities with technology that come along with income generating opportunities, and ultimately economic empowerment.
“But such discriminatory and multiple taxes and the unreceptiveness of the residents of those communities hamper the commitment of telecom operators to contribute in a more meaningful way to national development,” she said.
Cynthia Lumor said it was also worrying that MMDAs charge telecom operators separate fees for installing infrastructure like cables and towers, after charging a business operating fee.
She said in spite of the odds, MTN had invested over one billion dollars in network infrastructure since it came to Ghana, with over US$400 being invested last year alone.
Cynthia Lumor appealed to the relevant authorities to look at those taxes again with the view to creating an environment that enable telecom operators to expand to the deprive areas, and provide better service required of them.
The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu said a consultant has been appointed to look into those charges and come up with realistic ones, while the ministry has also promised to set up an inter-sectoral committee to look into matters of business operation permits for telecom operators.