Opposition political parties in the country have observed that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the nation are not growing because of huge interests that are imposed on them by commercial banks.
The parties, including Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Transformation Party (UTP), New Labour Party (NLP), People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), United Independent Party (UIP) and Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (Mafunde) addressed the press this morning at Grace Bandawe Conference Centre in Blantyre where they also accused Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) for being biased towards “well connected” individuals.
Taking turns in reading out a statement, the parties say the country’s commercial banks and MRA are mostly favouring those in power at the expense of most of the SMEs which is a setback to the country’s development.
“Malawi SMEs are often fleeced by the MRA. They pay duties and taxes they do not owe. They are hounded for back taxes if they are seen to be political critics or supporters of opposition parties,” said Newton Kambala, president of UTP.
He further said there have been cases where MRA has been used to harass some SMEs whose owners were seen as government critics.
He added: “Recently, a town councilor defected to the ruling party after a tax audit by the MRA. It was the only way he could avoid paying taxes to MRA. Big businesses which are owned by non-Malawians get their container loads of goods in duty free or on minimal amounts [taxes] just because they financially support the ruling party.”
Taking his turn, Mafunde president George Nnesa, said the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has powers to regulate the conduct of financial institutions, a development that would benefit MSEs. However, he said that was not the case at the moment hence SMEs continue to suffer.
On his part, president for NLP Sam Mpasu wondered on how commercial banks come up with charges for the services they render.
“An SME which asks for a bank statement is charged K1900 per page. Can any business bureau charge for A4 paper [printing] at K1900 per page?”He queried.
MCP was represented at the briefing by its second vice president, Macdonald Lombola.