The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, David Omatshola Carew, has told this writer, last Friday November 21st 2008 in an exclusive interview in Freetown, that the Budget for the Fiscal Year 2009 was not only "business friendly" and was also a reflection of the Ernest Koroma Governmentís determination to give "a new lease of life to local manufacturing industries".
"Strengthening the local manufacturing industries is a strategy for growth and this is exactly what our interventions will do," Carew posited.
He highlighted quite a number of such interventions as reflected in this yearís budget. One of which involves the cement industry. He started off by explaining that with the boom in re-construction immediately following the war, the local cement manufacturing industry could not keep up with the demand for cement and so the country had to look outwards in the form of imported cement that was added to the insufficient locally manufactured quantity
"Just after the war years, the duty on imported cement was dropped from the standard 20% to 10% as the local cement manufacturing industry was unable to keep up with the demand and we needed to encourage foreign imports. Now the local manufacturers have increased their production capacity and we want them to flourish because of their attendant contribution to increased employment so we are giving them a new lease of life by revising the import duty on imported cement back to the standard 20%," David Carew explained.
Another intervention aimed at strengthening the beverage industries was the reduction of tariffs on imported sugar that was to be used to make soft drinks. According to Carew, it has now been resolved that when, "finished goods like sugar are used as raw materials and it can be so proved, only 5% duty instead of the standard 20% will be charged". According to the minister, this intervention will impact positively on a number of areas not least of which is the cost of producing soft drinks.
"The various beverage factories can now be more profitable as business entities with an expected attendant positive effect on the well-being of their employees and to a wider extent, on the growth of the economy which is our ultimate desire," Carew said.
Carew also touched on other issues as reflected in the Budget he read out such as the impending review of the tax status of all NGOs based upon them providing convincing reports to the Government about their activities. More details of the interview with the Finance Minister on the Budget for 2009 will be published in future editions of this paper.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.