The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is tussling with clearing agents nationwide who have asked it to stop reducing the number of custom and clearing agents in the sector.
The agents say the move will kill small businesses and render about 2 000 people jobless.
But MRA has said the exercise follows new customs regulation enacted to bring sanity in the customs industry, adding it was not true that the process aims to reduce the number of clearing agents from 150 to 40.
In a letter dated January 20 2012, addressed to MRA commissioner general Lloyd Muhara, the agents say they fear the process to select 40 agents would not be fair because of influence from some prominent proprietors who they claim have recently joined the industry.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“No country would boast of being developed without small and medium entrepreneurs like us. We are as equally important as multinational companies that you are favouring. After all, revenue for local companies is spent within [Malawi].
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The policy is provocative and destructive to the Malawi economy. We are sure that even if you reduce the number of agents from 150 to 40, by 2013 we will find this industry filled with more agents,Ã¢â‚¬Â reads the letter in part signed by secretary for concerned clearing agents, Joe Magowa.
MRA public relations and taxpayer education manager Steven Kapoloma on Saturday said MRA is mandated to implement the new customs regulation which, he said, was enacted about three years ago; hence, the authority cannot reverse the process.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since last year, we have been conducting exercises to bring sanity in the industry. We want to ensure that only competent and trustworthy agents who have fixed offices and stores are allowed to operate,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Kapoloma said MRA last year invited both new and existing agents to apply for new licences as required by the new regulation, saying the authority will soon release names of successful applicants following interviews held last year.
He added that after releasing the names, MRA will imparts all agents with partial knowledge about the industry, saying they will also explore ways of assisting those who will not be licensed to meet the requirements of the new law.