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Downtown shops must pay tax

13 Feb 2017 at 14:02hrs | Views
The trend in town is that unless one wants to buy from a supermarket, he has to be armed with a credit card only east of Julius Nyerere Way. Tradition has it that downtown shops trade only in hard cash despite the widespread use of plastic money. The awkwardness of this behavior by these entrepreneurs suggests that the unavailability of Point of Sale (PoS) machines in these shops is a deliberate design by this group of entrepreneurs. Noteworthy is that these shops are largely run by three specific groups of businesspersons: Chinese, Nigerians and Indians.

Since time immemorial, Indians are famed for shunning the banking sector. Back home, India, a developing country that got its independence from Britain 70 years ago and is famed for banking software engineering, has a very low uptake of plastic money. Currently, the country is suffering bank note shortages that have affected business and family life acutely after the central bank demonetized the biggest two bank notes on the market, the 500 and 1000 Rupee.
Interesting about the situation back in India is that government's decision was informed by money laundering suspicions on both mainstream business and the business underworld. Other strong concerns surrounded tax evasion, bankrolling of illegal activities including terrorism and outright counterfeiting of the notes. Well, that's India for us, a country with tons of monetary sins. It was not the first time for India to demonetize notes. It may not be the last time. Indians the world over are renowned by operating small downtown corner shops trading in varied paraphernalia largely demanded by mass local markets. In Zimbabwe, Indians control the bulk of the fabric market, much of which is imported from India.

Indians also have strong family ties back home despite having emigrated to various parts of the world centuries ago. Wherever Indians arrived, their first interest was shop keeping and the accumulation of hard cash. For instance, by 1650. Indians were already in South Africa, some having arrived as slaves who later gained semi to total independence as the Human Rights movement gained worldwide traction. These still have family connections back in India. These family connections have business intertwines.

And now to the Chinese; China is a country with vast opportunities that are matched with vast competition too. China is the second largest world economy after overtaking Japan which has of late been suffering crippling natural disasters sponsored by seismic undersea activity. China is known for having vast reserves of United States Currency. Chinese also have a reputation of buying from China ahead of any other supplier wherever they set up shop. These businessmen are also famed for despising fiscalized cash registers for cash. China appears to have a strong buy-Chinese campaign for its nationals wherever they are. They also have pride in their products however mediocre they may be. Chinese manufacturers may forget to write their own names but they will quickly engrave the product 'Made in China'.

Chinese bring to Zimbabwe assortments of Chinese made products ranging from plastic toys, implements, home products, counterfeited electronics and clothes. Rarely do they bring in Chinese agricultural products. Their main concentration is on finished industrial products. Their command of the market is gaining speed as they are also venturing into heavy industrial machines, automobiles and construction. In all those industries, Chinese are famed for preferring hard currency deals. They also have a habit of issuing receipts printed in mandarin and Chinese fonts. This makes it difficult to track their financial dealings even if their cash registers were to be fiscalized.
Nigerians are natural treasure hunters. Their first treasure is the US dollar. Everything else follows. They trade mostly products whose origin is not Nigeria. Rather they have strong business links with Dubai and China where they bring in shiploads of goods which is oftentimes laced with contraband. Allegations of duty evasion are not new on the Nigerians, neither will they die soon.

These three groups of businessmen have a uniform habit of paying their employees hard currency salaries that never reach the bank. They do not pay employee benefits, PAYE or pensions. They do not use PoS machines despite the ease with which these are obtained from the banks. Lately, even an individual can hire a Pos machine from any bank and get it in record time. Plastic money has the advantage of being safe to transact in unlike cash which attracts counterfeits and the risk of armed cash heists.

Plastic money also attracts more impulsive buyers than cash. It also awards such a business accepting it with more sales given the difficulty associated with getting hard cash amid cash shortages. Plastic money is also associated with accuracy which translates to easy accounting and reconciliation.

Considering all the advantages associated with plastic money, it comes as a surprise and emerges clear that the said businesses have something they are running away from bank connected transacting. Illegal dealers are famed for setting up decoy shops to front their underworld businesses for the purposes of money laundering. Quick wealth is one 'virtue' treasured by these record populous countries. Plastic money has the unwanted disadvantage of having connections to the banking wires. With such scenarios, it will be difficult to conceal the dark side of business.

It is high time the monetary authorities crack whip on these errant businessmen in order to protect the economy. The economy is in serious want of foreign currency and beneficial business ethics. Employees of these shops run the high risk of destitution upon the sudden departure of their employers. An employer who is not subservient to the labor laws entitling employees to financial benefits upon closure of a business can close down their business at the wink of an eye. Workers deserve protection from the law. Government also has to use the same law to protect itself from unbecoming business practices.

Zimbabwe is a peace loving country which respects the dignity of humankind without frontiers. While the investments of these businessmen have to be recognized, force must be subjected on them so they are subservient to the laws of the land. Zimbabwe is a tax paying country and whoever wants to enjoy its hospitality must pay his dues.

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Source - Chigumbu Warikandwa
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