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Myanmar’s junta introduces hefty tax on Internet services to curb communication, raise income



Myanmar’s military government implemented a hefty raise of the commercial tax on Internet services on January 8, state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar wrote. The move is widely seen as a bid to limit Internet access and control the information for the public, especially for those opposing the military regime. Through the new tax, the price for an Internet-enabled SIM card ballooned by more than 13 times to 20,000 kyat ($11.25) from previously 1,500 kyat ($0.84), and in addition, a further 15-per cent tax on the revenue operators gain from Internet services has been applied. The profound increase is…

Myanmar’s military government implemented a hefty raise of the commercial tax on Internet services on January 8, state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar wrote.

The move is widely seen as a bid to limit Internet access and control the information for the public, especially for those opposing the military regime.

Through the new tax, the price for an Internet-enabled SIM card ballooned by more than 13 times to 20,000 kyat ($11.25) from previously 1,500 kyat ($0.84), and in addition, a further 15-per cent tax on the revenue operators gain from Internet services has been applied.

The profound increase is likely to make new SIM cards unaffordable for many people in a country where that the daily minimum wage for workers is currently 4,800 kyat ($2.70).

Curbing communication and information flow of the population

The new taxes come as Myanmar’s junta ordered a series of Internet shutdowns and restrictions to curb communication among the population and prevent people to call for democracy protest and organise other anti-junta events, causing various net breakdowns resulting in substantial economic damage.

Officially, the junta says it aims to “reduce harm to young people” caused by “overuse of the Internet,” the report said.

However, the new taxes are not only targeted at anti-coup protesters, but are also aimed at offsetting a substantial drop in tax revenue caused by people’s disobedience to pay taxes to the junta government.

“As the use of Internet services is on the rise across the nation, levying commercial tax over the consumption of Internet services can increase the income for the state,” Global New Light of Myanmar tried to vindicate the tax raise.

Tax revenue dropped 35 per cent in Myanmar’s last fiscal year

Myanmar’s Internal Revenue Department in its latest annual report for the country’s fiscal year ending September 30 said that tax earnings dropped by 35 per cent to $2.7 billion compared to the previous fiscal year when tax revenue came in at $4.1 billion.

The decline has been in every category, including income taxes, commercial taxes, special commodity taxes, stamp duties, lotteries and jewelry taxes, the report said. For example, revenue from the state lottery fell by over two-thirds with more and more people declining to buy tickets. Many residents are also refusing to pay their utility bills.

Myanmar’s economy is expected to contract around 18 per cent this year due to the ongoing political turmoil and a third wave of Covid-19 infections, according to the World Bank. Overall, 1.2 million people in the country lost their jobs in the second quarter of 2021, according to the International Labour Organisation, and nearly half of Myanmar’s 55 million population – some 25 million people – will be living below the national poverty line in early 2022, the United Nations projected.



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