Tanzania halts ‘nuisance tax’ on handicraft sold to tourists

The government has swiftly intervened in a parastatal’s attempt to frustrate carvings traders and tourists by slapping hefty royalty on woodcarvings at exit points.

Tanzania Forestry Services (TFS) announced on Wednesday that it would collect royalty from each souvenir a tourist carried with him on his way back home, but it did neither say the date the royalty would start to hurt the industry nor reasons behind its enforcement.

However, Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu and Permanent secretary of the ministry Adelhelm Meru, jointly vowed at the weekend to do all it takes to scrap what they termed as a nuisance tax.

“We’ve received reports on the nuisance tax with shock because we know it will affect tourism including you who eke out a living out of the sector,” Dr Meru told carvings traders at Mount Meru Curios and Crafts Market in Arusha.

“One tourist told me he paid a royalty of Sh30,000 for a carving he bought at only Sh10,000, does it make sense?” queried the permanent secretary, promising to collaborate with the minister to ensure the royalty was forthwith scrapped.

Sympathising with the carvings traders for the loss they incurred in their razed market structure, Mr Nyalandu pledged the government’s contribution through Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) of Sh100 million to the construction of their new market.

“Let your leaders devise a Bill of Quantities (BOQ) and submit it to Tanapa for the construction work to be accomplished at once,” said Mr Nyalandu, asking the carvings traders to become envoys of tourism, Tanapa, and hospitality. 

The Mount Meru Curios and Crafts Market, which dates back to 2004, recruited 223 carvings traders and 500 shopkeepers before it was gutted by fire early in November last year.

Thanks to the fire brigade here for its failure to extinguish the inferno that erupted a stone’s throw from its offices on grounds that its vans lacked water.

It was at around 9pm when the market caught fire, but the apparently tipsy fire fighters arrived at the scene over one hour later when the inferno had already reduced billions of shillings worth of artworks at the market stalls.

Mgaya Kondo, the chairman of the market, said the carvings traders themselves and well-wishers had raised Sh150 million for the construction of the new market building.

“At least Sh130 million is, however, required for the construction work to be accomplished in a month’s time,” Mr Kondo told the visiting minister and the permanent secretary.
Source: The Citizen, reported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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