Kebede Chane under fire for “inflated” tax hike


Minister of Customs and Revenue Authority, Kebede Chane drew strong criticism from his own party members for provoking the latest public protests in Oromia and Addis Ababa regions by proposing “poorly prepared and unreasonably inflated” tax hikes. The minister’s tax outline target small-scale traders in what was intended to estimate their daily earnings and increase the tax of businesses with annual turnover of 100,000 birr as part of effort to fund public sector pay rises. As instance of the ministry’s delirious calculation, a certain woman who sells coffee on Haya Hulet Street had the shock of her life when she was told that she has a 3,000 birr revenue per day, and she could pay a tax accordingly.
Anger at the tax hike and such estimation has fuelled another round of protests in parts of Oromia region and Addis Ababa over the last week, which saw business shut down and services interrupted. Most members of the ruling regime are unhappy at such measures who are in no way ready to see another round of protests, even it means a way of earning desperately needed revenue.
In private party meeting with Prime Minister Hailemarim Desalegn last week, Kebede reportedly defended his action saying that he was trying to get around 148,000 small scale traders in Addis Ababa pay tax. But increasing the tax in such manner is an odd political strategy, he was made to admit.
Kebede is now on a campaign to calm down the public anger. On Saturday, he announced to local media in apologizing tone that that small-scale traders could pay duties of only what they decide is proper. He talked about the government’s unwavering commitment to build a better life for all lower-income tax payers. “If this section of the community are self-sufficient, it is less of burden for the government. It is the responsibility of the government to make citizens able to eat and get by,” he said.
Thus, he said, it is now decided that small street café vendors, hairdresser, pool gaming business owners could determine their own earnings and pay tax accordingly. But he also urged traders to fulfil their responsibility of declaring their income and paying taxes in view of that.
Sources say this latest development doesn’t mean that Kebede is out of favor. He is seen loyal primarily to the political elite and he is seen as untouchable. As a combatant of the Amhara National Democratic Movement since he was an 18-year-old young man and serving in the Amhara region’s highly politicized polity and security bureau for 15 years after the fall of the military regime, he is not ordinary technocrat. Kebede Chane is a childhood friend of the vice president of the Amhara regional government, Alemnew Mekonnen, both of whom hail from the town of Kobo


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