Traders and consumers were yesterday Monday 26th January 2009 dismayed when they woke up in the morning, only to discover that shops all over the central business district of Freetown have been closed down in protest of the exorbitant custom duties charged by the National Revenue Authority (NRA) at the ports of entry.
In a press briefing called by the Sierra Leone Importers Association on Monday yesterday, the President of the Association, Alpha Tanu Jalloh, informed that the Association met over the weekend to discuss issues bordering on the high custom duties levied on them by the Government for the clearing of goods.
He said in a meeting held in October last year with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Association suggested that the Government review the custom duty rate in the country.
This he noted was in realization of the fact that custom duties are by far higher in Sierra Leone than in Liberia and Guinea, a situation he said is not conducive or encouraging for business in the country.
According to him, the high costs of commodities in Sierra Leone due to exorbitant custom chargers has been the reason why most business people prefer to travel to neighboring Guinea and Liberia to buy goods sold there at reasonably cheap prices.
The Importers Association President, Alpha Tanu Jalloh, also stated that during the meeting with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, they tried to advocate for the reduction of the cost for clearing a 40ft container from fifteen million leones to ten million leones, and from ten million leones to five million leones for 20ft container respectively.
Since then however, the President said the current APC Government has not done anything practical to address the issue, as have been done in other countries in the sub-region.
"We’ll continue to put our shops under lock and key until the APC Government gets serious enough to address our concerns", the determined President stated.
He ended by pointing out that they have held series of consultative meetings with stakeholders including the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and the Ministry of Finance on the issue at stake, but nothing positive has been done to make the situation better. The protest action, he further maintained, is in the best interest of the average citizens, whom he said are bound to be the hardest hit should the situation remains as it is.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.