By Joseph O. okuja.
SOLOMON’S YOKE (1 KINGS 12)
1 Kings 12 tells us that the people of Israel petitioned their new King, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, to relieve them of the “yoke” his father had suffered them to bear. The “yoke,” we learn from the story, was the cost of maintaining the political establishment; it was an excessive income tax and forced labour. The story goes on to say that Rehoboam promised to take his subjects’ plea under consideration after consultation. Apparently, he talked the matter over with his elders who advised him to serve his people and give them a favourable answer. He rejected the advice. Then he consulted his ministers and they strongly advised him against any reduction of the income tax; after all, ministers have to be supported in the style to which bureaucrats always like to be accustomed. So, after three days, Rehoboam told the people: “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” Whatever chastisement with scorpions may be, it is certainly not pleasant to the recipient. And that is something you might remember when the #TaxGatherers pay you a “courtesy” visit and leave you with an additional assessment for not including an item of income in your income-tax return. Now it is getting worse! When shall we return sovereignty, which the constitution assumes they have, to the people? Some of the Israelites were so resentful about the “yoke” that when Rehoboam’s chief tax collector, a one Adoniram, made his round among them, they unceremoniously met him with such a hail of stones “that he died.” This was rather hard on Adoniram and his family, and am not recommending this for the Tax Gatherers. There are more orderly and effective ways of getting rid of the “yoke”. Listen to the Elders. Listen to reason.
Taxes are a controversial topic. Nobody wants to pay too much in taxes, but the government needs money to function–and, of course, there’s plenty of disagreement on why we should be paying taxes and who, exactly, is paying too much or too little! Arguments have been made for and against the OTT and mobile money tax. I do not care what side of the divide you fall; but what I know for a fact is that these taxes are mere money raisers. There is nothing in the character of these taxes that involves any other purpose. In levying them, the government did not rely on any tax principle other than that the citizen must pay for the upkeep of this government, in proportion to the amount of OTT services and mobile money transactions they consume. Period! Government is simply saying to its citizens: “Sorry Ugandans, but we need money with which to carry on this political establishment, and we don’t have any other source of money but you. We will, however, ease the pain of payment by just gathering it whenever you participate in these activities. Go labour, produce and pay tax!”
Taxation has never been so central to public debate until this year when it became evident that there is no limit on how much government can confiscate. Should we be taxed more? Can we be taxed better? What should government be doing to increase the legitimacy of the taxes they gather from us? When it finally dawns on you that a government is as strong as its income, you’ll appreciate the bitter truth that political power is the source of material betterment and a guide to the personal destinies for those who are shrewd enough to pursue it. Don’t you ever wonder why, in spite of our limited resources, the number of districts and constituencies with the full package of individuals to fill administrative positions, LC positions and MP positions does not seem to have an end in sight? Don’t you ever wonder why money is always available for politicians and their political activities, including armoured cars and sharp shooters; and yet none is available for teachers, doctors, drugs, hospitals, sanitary pads, etc.? Politicians and Public officials are not producers. Their taxable funds consist of what they have gathered from the producing public in the private sector. Sadly, under the law, government can take everything the citizen earns, even to the extent of depriving them of their subsistence, except that they must leave citizens with something so that they can produce something more to be confiscated.