Shaw says WhatsApp calls could be denting revenues

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, admitted Wednesday that data using technology like WhatsApp could reduce the flow of Government revenues.

Shaw was responding to an assertion by former technology minister Phillip Paulwell that data using technology, like WhatsApp, could be reducing the level of taxes from a tax levy on phone calls, which the Opposition spokesman introduced in 2012/13 as part of a $16-billion tax package, but which was not validated in Parliament until yesterday.

“We are mindful that some of our expectations for direct revenues from the source, and also to the Universal Service Fund (USF) might have been impaired by instances of bypass and so on, and I am wondering if the performance has been in accordance with our expectations…have you received all that was supposed to accrue?” Paulwell asked.

He noted that bypass has been a major issue in relation to the collection of revenues from telephone calls.

Shaw undertook to provide details in the future. However, he admitted that in recent discussions with at least one of the major carriers, he could confirm that increased propensity for use of data, for example “WhatsApp”, was placing a dent on revenue of the major carriers, which would ultimately affect the rate of government’s intake, as well.

“So, it calls into question whether we are earning much from the data portion, which in itself needs to be reviewed,” Shaw responded.

Balford Henry

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