BEN SSEBUGUZI : Uganda needs to train expert negotiators 

With the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) projection of collecting over Shs 28.2trillion in the 2024/25 budget might not easily be attained because of the 5 day traders strike with huge impact like loss of 5 trading days where almost other sectors like transport have also been hardly hit which has sabotaged people’s incomes. Many customer orders could not be effected due to closure of shops hence slowing our GDP for this week.

At a only 14% of Uganda GDP to tax ratio you can agree with me that it is really still low to support country’s development plans and therefore a call for a swift approach by government to train Expert negotiators to always be available in such scenarios of trader strikes before they happen in order to avert such huge loss to our country .The negotiators should posses proactive skills of alternative dispute resolutions, conflict prevention,dispute resolution and collective bargaining. That’s how President Yoweri Museven was able to convince the traders to reopen their shops while in their meeting with him at Statehouse in Nakasero today.

During the April 16, meeting with Hon.Matia Kasaija, Minister for finance,the traders presented only 5 key demands for the government to address which included increasing the VAT threshold from Shs 150m to Shs1b and reducing VAT rate from 18% to 16%, traders also expressed concern regarding the complications of EFRIS alleging that there was lack of enough sensitisation to understand it,The traders also urgued about the import duty rate on textiles and fabrics alleging that it was beyond their means.They also also expressed concern regarding the anti competitive practices of allowing manufacturers especially foreign ones to engage in distribution, wholesale and sometimes retail which closes out traders out of business.

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To me these where serious matters of concern from the traders which required a well organised team of professional negotiators from Finance Ministry,trade ministry and tax policy implementation agency URA to counter and resolve in order to avert the bad experience of traders laying down their tools.

It is very hard to fathom this yet true that the trouble causers of traders strike was not the traders themselves but relevant agencies responsible who failed on their job . When an employee fails or even just performs poorly -managers don’t blame them selves. That is the same situation with this industrial action by traders.Some people will rush to blame them.

Consequently the poor negotiation team didn’t understand the nature of the dispute and underlying reason and hidden agenda.It is likely that there was no people to explain to the traders which led to the strike.

There was need to import much empathy like the President has done today cognisant by the fact that businesses are still grappling with their own financial pressures which might have increased the tension.

The professionals were supposed to win over hearts and minds of traders using neutral, non emotive language and backing up with statements with objective examples and illustrations where possible.This can make traders to be very reluctant to strike.

It should be noted that during this time the negotiators have to be careful not to be seen as pressuring or bullying and avoiding the use of emotionally charged language. This helps to build credibility from traders which settles the would be strike.

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Recommendations
1.Consultation
I want to first thank the President of Uganda and NRM National Chairman, General Yoweri Kaguta Museven for bringing the best Negotiations skills where he has given the traders a deal by suspending the EFRIS as they make consultations and investigations .This is a great sigh relief to people who contribute many taxes.Now they feel appreciated and loved and they are going to work harder and declare more taxes. This type of relationship cultivated today is going to make them appreciate government as a reliable partner and they can even report those who are avoiding tax and defaulters because of increase in trust levels.

2.Start an annual dinner for traders to celebrate the best tax payers from traders.
A young woman was easily upset always at work and frustrated until her boss invited her for a talk in the coffee room, which led her to open up. This annual dinner for traders will be for opening up and building friendship with the tax body which will ease tax collection and higher compliance.

The author is the Head of Research Office of the National Chairman of NRM -Kyambogo.

The post BEN SSEBUGUZI : Uganda needs to train expert negotiators  appeared first on Watchdog Uganda.

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