Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Arakan’s Fishermen Suffer from Increased Taxes Amidst Government’s Poverty Alleviation Drive

Kyaukpru: The fishing community, one of the most deprived communities in western Burma’s Arakan State, has suffered from increased taxes being levied on them by the local departmental authorities, while at the same time the present regime led by President U Thein Sein is said to have been attempt to eradicate poverty in the country.

U Kyaw Lwin, an MP of the people’s parliament, said the district fisheries department in Kyaukpru in southern Arakan State has increased the tax being collected from the fishing boats in the area as license fees without providing official documentation for the receipt of the tax.

Fishing-Vilage-in-Arakan-(photo-by-Narinjara) 25000 kyat for such fishing boat has been taxed by Burma authority in Arakan.
“The department has taxed 25,000 Kyat from a fishing boat as license fee and the fishermen has come to complain the matter to me with growing suspicion on the department’s taxation because the department has increased the amount of the tax this year and not given any official document regarding the receipt of the tax to them”, said U Kyaw Lwin.

He said, quoting the fishermen, that the department taxed 18,000 Kyat as a license fee from a boat last year providing a receipt of the tax The taxation team led by the deputy director of the district fisheries department is said to have been collecting taxes from the fishing boats in the area.

A fisherman from Zin Chaung, a fishing village in Kyaukpru Township, also confirmed that all the fisherman in his village are skeptical over the department’s unusual taxations on their fishing boats this year.

“Formally we have to pay taxes for our fishing boats to the department as the license fee, and the department used to issue to us receipts of taxes. This year the department has increased the amount of the taxes but not given any official receipt or document for the taxes they have collected from us. Now we are worried we will have to pay more taxes to the department”, said the fisherman.

He said the fishermen in their area have been facing losses and difficulties with their livelihoods as they have to pay yearly taxes not only to the official department, but also to the businessmen who have got tenders for the fishing blocks auctioned by the government separating the areas of the creeks, rivers and sea, for their fishing rights.

According to the local fishermen in Arakan State, they are facing an increased scarcity of fish in the region as well as the new heavy taxes, as local companies including 'Asia World', that are close associates of the Burmese regime are trawling every area of the sea in the region. They are usually in partnership with Chinese or Singaporean companies who have modern trawling equipment.

Fishing communities make up a major portion of the populations in Arakan State geographically situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal and abundant in rivers and creeks, but most of them are poor due to authorities’ heavy taxations and monopolization of their businesses.

U Kyaw Lwin said the government’s attempts to alleviate poverty in the region will not improve unless it can stop the corruption amongst its departmental officials, drop the heavy taxations on fisherman and prevent monopolizations on the fishing industry.

“The government should stop the corruption amongst the departmental officials first and then they should drop the heavy taxations on the micro businesses that the general population utilize in order to sustain their livelihoods, otherwise its plans for poverty alleviation will never be successful nor improve lifestyles for the poor in the state”, he said.

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