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Punches thrown in Ghana parliament over proposed electronic payments tax

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A brawl broke out on the floor of Ghana’s parliament late on Monday as lawmakers debated a proposed tax on electronic transactions that has divided the house for weeks.

The 1.75% e-levy, which would include taxes on mobile money payments, has been fiercely opposed by the opposition since it was first proposed last month, and held up the passing of the national budget.

Members of parliament rushed the front of the chamber after Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu suggested the tax be debated and voted upon under a hastened ‘urgency’ procedure. Some threw punches and grappled while others restrained their colleagues.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta argues that the levy would widen the tax net and raise an additional 6.9 billion Ghanaian cedi ($1.15 billion) in 2022.

But his proposal was met with boos and jeers in parliament when it was first announced.

Those opposed to the levy say it would disproportionately affect lower-income people and those outside the formal banking system who rely heavily rely on mobile money transfers, reducing overall economic activity.

Ofori-Atta has promised to hold further discussions with stakeholders about the levy.

A vote on whether or not to proceed with the urgency procedure will resume on Tuesday.

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