Tax Justice heavily impacts on women: ActionAid Zimbabwe

Many African countries are constrained in their ability to invest in key social sectors, many of which are predominantly used by women.

By Nyasha Mutena

The indiscriminate nature of taxes are most harmful towards the very people they are supposed to benefit, and the most detrimental effect impacts women, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode has revealed.

With consumption taxes, everyone pays the same amount of tax for any given good or service regardless of their income. However, the poor and marginalised contribute a larger proportion of their incomes to the government treasuries than wealthier individuals and corporates. Given that women account for up to 70 percent of poor populations in African countries, they feel the most heat.

This was unveiled during a 3-day online Tax and Gender Responsive Public Services Summit (GRPS) from the 30th of August to the 1st of September 2021 hosted by Action Aid Zimbabwe (AAZ). Dr Labode said it was critical to fulfill the provision of Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights for women and girls.

“There is need to make sure that women and girls benefit from the public health services. To ensure that services are gender responsive, we must make sure that there are publicly funded and delivered.”

She cited that allocation of funds must be based upon need.

“Vulnerable women and girls are walking very long distances to reach their nearest water points due to inadequate water infrastructure and then they have to walk over 2km to reach their nearest health care facilities. Given those areas funds to address such challenges.

“Suppose government is allocating funds for combating malaria, giving Bulawayo the same amount as Binga is ridiculous because there is no Malaria in Bulawayo, Binga deserves those funds based on need, ” she said.

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association representative, Mr Michael Ndiweni mentioned that government should incentivise the informal traders to pay tax demonstrating how much is going to be reinvested.

One of the participants Learnmore Mudzanga, had this to say;

“There must be transparency and accountability in financial matters, the public finance system must be directed towards national development and in particular, the burden of taxation must be shared fairly, revenue raised nationally must be shared equitably between the central government, provincial and local tiers of government; expenditure must be directed towards the development of Zimbabwe and special provision must be made for marginalized groups and areas.

“The burdens and benefits of the use of resources must be shared equitably between the present and future generations. Public funds must be expended transparently, prudently, economically and effectively. Financial management must be responsible and fiscal reporting must be clear and public borrowing and transactions involving the nation must be carried out transparently”.

Another speaker, Ebenezer Tombo highlighted the need for tracking government revenue sources with related contributions versus the different economic players inorder to adequately cover the gaps and proffer alternatives that sector specific.

The workshop comes against the backdrop of persistent and a gradual decline in public service delivery owing to a crumbled public service delivery system with women and girls being worst affected. Tax systems remain weak and prone to evasion, a development that has robbed the national purse of substantial revenue.

The Summit harmonized civil society actors, researchers, policy makers and duty bearers to interrogate the current state of public service provision in the country and interrogate how the tax system can be used to improve GRPS provision in Zimbabwe.

The GRPS Summit sought to tackle and evaluate critical sectors of health, education and water, using domestically mobilized resources , recommending ways to improve public service provision and make them gender responsive.

Referencing a 2014 study conducted by Ernest and Young, Mr Johannes Chiminya from AAZ highlighted that Zimbabwe lost US$101 million in the Platinum Mining Sector pointing to the fact that government must consider a re-investment pattern where gender responsive public services are availed.

“Government, at all levels, local to central, must ensure that revenue raised from taxation is used to progressively finance the provision of quality gender responsive public services. The expenditures are higher than the revenues and this is not healthy for our economy, future generations and even the sovereignty of the nation. For instance, there is no adequate water in Harare thus, the need for government to take effective measures and ensure that there is better taxing which leads to attainment of provision and delivery bof gender responsive resources,” said Chiminya.

The role of taxes in any country is to help it domestically raise the revenues it requires to achieve its developmental objectives. Africa’s ability to raise its own resources currently is hindered by the illicit outflow of revenue which accounts for USD 86 billion annually. As such, given Africa’s limited purse, many African countries are constrained in their ability to invest in key social sectors, many of which are predominantly used by women.