Since Parliament on Wednesday 12th July, 2018 enacted into law the “Finance Amendment Act 2018” with a view to improving domestic revenue mobilization for the services of Sierra Leone, advocates against the Act have sprouted up from all corners calling on President Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio not to sign the Bill into law.
When presenting the Bill to Parliament, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffamade it crystal clear that the Finance Amendment Act was seeking to amend the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017, and for other related matters, aimed at reducing tariffs on alcohol beverages and wheat flour to provide for a competitive economy to benefit ordinary Sierra Leoneans. The Act lowers tariff on alcohol beverages from US$4 to US$1.5 per litre.
Despite the beauty of the Act that will eliminate monopoly on alcohol beverages and recover the lost revenue that was accrued from the importation of alcohol beverages estimated at over Le140 Billion, some hired pen machineries and advocates in the electronic media have vehemently condemned the Act arguing that the policy will cripple their so-called Local Content Policy. According to them, the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017 were deliberate government policies to promote local companies in accordance with the Local Content Policy, claiming that since the policies were introduced by the former Koroma administration, local companies have recorded growth in terms of profits and investments, as well as giving back part of their profits to communities they operate in the areas of health, infrastructure, education, hygiene, sports, among other corporate social responsibilities. They further claimed that the local companies are creating quality employment for hundreds of Sierra Leoneans, including farmers planting sorghum for supply to Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) for production, and their payment of taxes to the Government of Sierra Leone.
The hired advocates also advanced that importers of alcohol beverages do not create quality employment and that the taxes they are paying is not commensurate to that of the local companies, adding that those who advised the Government on the enactment of the Finance Amendment Act 2018 got it completely wrong.
That the Finance Amendment Act 2018 will cripple local companies that are producing alcohol beverages is absolute bunkum. Local Content Policy notwithstanding, those advocating in favour of local companies should not distance themselves from the contemporary world because Sierra Leone operates a liberal economy or free market economy where the forces of supply and demand determine prices of commodities. The erstwhile APC Government may have tailored the so-called Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017 to suit their moribund socialistic economic ideas for personal gains, knowing fully well that former President Ernest Bai Koroma was, true to his words, running Sierra Leone like a business.
Some of these local companies which selfish Sierra Leoneans are crazily advocating for are no longer infant industries, but because they don’t grow, they lobby skewed politicians to protect them much to the detriment of the ordinary Sierra Leoneans. When the Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017 were introduced, for instance, the increase in taxation prevented importers from importing alcohol beverages such as Cody’s, Baltika and other brands that consequently hiked the prices of the few imported alcohol beverages on the market. Cody’s long cup which was sold at Le8, 000went beyond the pockets of ordinary Sierra Leoneans when the price was increased to Le15, 000 and that price still stands and even way beyond that in expensive hotels and restaurants except for smuggled Cody’s long cup which is sold at Le12, 000 at Sani Abacha Street. So why unscrupulous compatriots should wickedly advocate for a monopoly that has deprived most people of the products they love? Does that make any sense to drinkers who prefer varieties of alcohol beverages? I think not.
Talking about Local Content Policy, let’s also talk about the products of our local companies. The former APC Government through those two Finance Amendment Acts gave the liberty to local companies to produce whatever products they cared to flush into the market whether of good or poor quality because there was no competitive economy. In the absence of Cody’s Stout, for instance, many drinkers used to complain of either diarrhea or constipation whenever they drink the local Stout produced by SLBL. Yet, the company is alleged to be surreptitiously behind the advocacy for the President not to sign the Finance Amended Act which Parliament has already passed into law to improve domestic revenue mobilization which the past Government was impotent at achieving and consequently enmeshed itself in accumulating overdrafts at the Bank of Sierra Leone to fulfill its obligation of paying salaries to Government employees.
What is Local Content Policy if it does not reflect positively on the ordinary Sierra Leoneans? Since the propagating of the so-called policy, it has not created the so-called quality employment advocates are talking about to blindfold the public. Instead, it only created employment for those favored by the past APC regime and not the ordinary Sierra Leoneans. I therefore challenge the groveling advocates to produce any statistics showing that the ordinary Sierra Leoneans benefitted from the highfaluting policy which was nothing but farce.
The erstwhile Secretary to President Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio may have rushed into trying to expunge those selfish and greedy Acts and regrettably had a sack. But the shrewd and well informed Minister of Finance, who may have felt the impact of the astronomical rise in the taxation of imported alcohol beverages, has done exactly what the ordinary Sierra Leoneans would appreciate and not the greedy bunch of state exploiters who selfishly benefitted from those Acts.
Unlike former President Koroma who manifested his business-like approach to governance and had his hands in almost every pile, President Bio has within the shortest time of his rule proved beyond all reasonable doubts that his intention to take Sierra Leone to higher height.
Despite the depreciation of the Leone against the United States Dollar, the Bio administration has done tremendously well in many areas which the ordinary Sierra Leoneans would be benefitting from, including the free education in both primary and secondary schools, the elimination of application forms for universities, tertiary and vocational institutes, commissioned the construction of three highways in the Eastern and Southern Regions, you name it.
It is against the furtherance of President Bio’s determination to make the difference in democratic Sierra Leone that he should go ahead and sign the Finance Amendment Act 2018 which Parliament has already been passed into an Act instead of listening to selfish simpletons acting like they are from Mars and do not have the foggiest idea of what we are going through as a poor nation.