Zambian religious groups to halt services over revoked tax exemptions

Zambian religious groups threatened to stop providing education, health and other social-welfare services.

Zambian religious groups to halt services over revoked tax exemptions
World Bulletin / News Desk 
 
Religious movements in Zambia have threatened to stop providing education, health and other social-welfare services if the government did not rescind its decision to revoke their tax-exempt status.

"The implementation of this policy will only serve to hurt the poor, who are the intended beneficiaries of the services," the Zambia Episcope Conference, the Council of Churches in Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and the Islamic Council of Zambia said in a joint statement obtained by Anadolu Agency.

"If the decision isn't repealed, it will be impossible for us to offer the intended social services," they said.

In November, the government revoked the tax-exempt status of public benefit organizations and non-state charitable agencies, including religious organizations.

Religious leaders, however, say this will undermine their operations and increase the cost of providing social services.

If the government did not reverse the decision, they warned, they might be forced to stop providing services in the fields of health, education, vocational training, home-based care and hospices.

"If the government doesn't reconsider and reinstate the previous process [tax exemptions]… the poor, who are the primary beneficiaries of the services, will suffer in so far as they will be deprived of essential services provided by donations from abroad through local charities," said the groups.

Since independence, religious movements in Zambia have been instrumental in supplementing government efforts to provide education, health and welfare services.

In some parts of the country, all education, health and welfare services are provided by religious groups.

Government spokesman Fackson Shamenda said the government had been prompted to revoke tax exemptions because some NGOs, including religious organizations, had abused the exemptions for political or personal gain.

Nonetheless, he asserted his government was ready to discuss the matter with the aggrieved bodies.

"As a government, we are willing to dialogue with religious bodies who are our partners in development," he told AA. "These organizations are partners in development, and their contribution to the nation is feasible.

Last Mod: 30 Ocak 2014, 17:14
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