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PARLIAMENT - The Parliament on Monday unanimously rejected the Tourism Amendment Bill in which the Minister responsible for Tourism Tshekedi Khama seeks to raise money for the cash strapped Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO).
The amendment of the Tourism Act as proposed by Tshekedi is expected to accommodate the collection of the proposed Tourism Development Levy by BTO.
First announced in late 2016, the new tourists’ tax will see non SADC citizens paying up to P300 at various points of entry making up to P162 million.
Last year the Hospitality and Tourism Association (HATAB) complained that neither it nor other stakeholders had been consulted on the potential tax. Botswana welcomes some 2, 598,158 visitors a year, of which 528, 270 are from non SADC countries.
Tshekedi says the introduction of the tax is an effort by his ministry to raise money to support conservation in various safari spots across the country as well as enhance the standards of tourism delivery in the country.
On Monday, in his attempt to present the Bill under a certificate of urgency, Tshekedi told parliament that Botswana Tourism Organisation, whose the beneficiary of the proposed changes, will be hosting a world class entertainment event in February 2018 and intends to host the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council Summit, “and will be required to make payments shortly to secure these events and start the marketing campaign necessary for their success”.
Tshekedi said that through the new levy, approximately P162, 555, 095.75 can be raised by BTO to self fund the proposed projects.
However MPs from across the political divided all stood to reject Tshekedi despite his plea.
“I do not support the Bill particularly that we do not know the actual impact the proposed levy will have on the tourism sector. All stakeholders should be thoroughly consulted including us as MP’s,” argued the ruling party MP Kagiso Molatlhegi, drawing first the blood on the floor.
The Gaborone South MP, who doubles as the Deputy Speaker of the House called for the Bill to be discussed thoroughly at the General Assembly before it is presented to Parliament.
The opposition MP Pius Mokgware also did not support the Bill, arguing there were too many questions over the introduction of Tourism Development Levy citing the Parliament Standing Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprise to which he is a member was at some stage mooted.
For his part the opposition legislator Wynter Mmolotsi will also follow suit, echoing the same sentiments of non-consultation fearing the same calamity that befell the Plastic Fund levy which was introduced by the same Ministry but now defunct.
With a swelling number of MP’s against the Bill, the Speaker of the House Gladys Kokorwe had no option but to end the debate as it was clear that confidence was lost on Tshekedi by the MPs.