Retailers taking advantage of consumers over govt’s failed project
Minister of Environment, Natural Resources conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama conceded in parliament last week that the plastic levy had failed to do what it was intended for and admitted that retailers now take advantage of consumers as a result of government’s failure to regulate.
This is after other MPs pressed the minister to consider putting in place mechanisms through which government can collect funds from the levy. Gaborone North’s Haskins Nkaigwa reminded the house that in the olden days, commodities from shops were bought without consumers having to pay for plastics because one would expect that the cost of packaging becomes the cost of the product.
“But do you not think now Batswana are being overcharged by paying for plastics at the same time having to pay for a commodity that is included in the price of packaging,” he asked Khama who agreed with him.
The minister further noted that there currently is no income accrued to government from sale of plastic bags since the plastic levy has never been implemented and there have never been measures in place to collect it. He however said they were currently in the process of instituting a ban on plastic carrier bags of less than 24 microns.
“The problem with the plastic bag levy was that when it was brought about, it was not implementable as the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) said there was no way of collecting the levy at the border. There was also an implication of something to do with SADC as well,” he said.
The other challenge he noted was that they did not have the resources to collect the levy from retailers and retailers saw this as an opportunity to charge the consumer more money, to the extent that they even determined how much they are selling the plastic bags.
“So, the honorable member is right. The value of your shopping from a retail is further increased by the cost a retailer is selling the plastic bag for. That is why Madam Speaker, we have decided to proceed with the ban of plastic carrier bags less than 24 microns,” Khama said.
He further indicated that his ministry was engaged by the Investment, Trade and Industry ministry on the subject and was asked to meet plastic bags manufactures in Botswana to see if they could come up with a solution. Despite giving them up to two months towards the end of last year, Khama says none of them came back to his ministry with a solution.
“The National Strategy Office have also been involved so that we try to find a way of collecting that levy because that was the intention but unfortunately despite our efforts, we have not been able to do that with other stakeholders where the authority lies, to manage to collect the levy. Therefore, our decision then as I said has been to proceed with the ban of the 24 microns or lighter plastic bags,” he said.