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As of September 23, 2015, the government has levied a 10% fee on the top up cards of all amounts for all mobile phone services. [Photo by Baqir Haidary]

As of September 23, 2015, the government has levied a 10% fee on the top up cards of all amounts for all mobile phone services. [Photo by Baqir Haidary]

Over the past few days customers of all of Afghanistan’s telecommunications companies have been receiving mysterious messages on their cellphones.

“According to a decree by the government of Afghanistan a fee of 10 percent will be deducted from the top-up amount of credit  from the customers of all telecom companies from September 23 onwards.”

The “fee” is very deliberately not being called a ”tax,” although it may feel that way to Afghanistan’s beleaguered customers.

Cellphone use in Afghanistan is topping the 80 percent mark, and most people have few other options for communication. The government is generating revenue by targeting the most robust sector of the Afghan economy.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said that the fee had been planned during the Karzai administration, but now has been decreed by the new president. He indicated that the measure was designed to provide funding for development projects as well as to make up for lack of revenue in the government coffers.

The MCIT will act as a watchdog to make sure that the telecommunications company fully comply with the decree. The “fee” should generate enormous revenue, he added, since 23.4 million Afghans are now using cellphones.

This should help it meet the targets set by the International Monetary Fund, but it will not make consumers happy.

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New telecom tariffs boost revenue for government, decrease service for customers

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