Youth Parliament Supports New Mobile Tariff
The Youth Parliament, hereinafter referred to as ‘the Parliament’ is a nonprofit, nongovernmental and a Civil Society Youth led organization that seeks to promote youth education, participation, representation and inclusion at all levels of governance in Sierra Leone; it is equally a platform for grooming future parliamentarians for our beloved nation. Pursuant to chapter three, Act No. 6 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone, the Youth Parliament is legally registered with the Office of the Administrator and Registrar General of the Republic of Sierra Leone and some other state established institutions (as provided for by law). The membership of the Youth Parliament is regionally, tribally and politically balanced.
Meanwhile, the Parliament notes with great concern the proposed tariff increment to be instituted by mobile operators in Sierra Leone effective 1st April, 2017. The Parliament therefore wishes to make known its position on the said subject matter to the nation.
The Parliament is mindful of the fact that a telecommunication’s tariff is an open contract between telecommunications service providers and the public, filed with a regulating body; in the case of Sierra Leone, the National Telecommunications Commission – hereinafter referred to as NATCOM, is the body responsible to regulate mobile operators (as established by The Telecommunications Act, 2006).
However, the Parliament is carefully following the controversial debate that this proposed tariff increment has triggered. As a responsible group that seeks to promote the interest of its members (which forms part of the group that constitutes 60% of the total population of Sierra Leone, and therefore 60% of mobile users in this nation), vulnerable groups and the masses, posterity will judge the Parliament if it fails to lend its voice to this all important debate which in no small way is never unconnected to the welfare maximization of members of the Youth Parliament and our fellow Sierra Leoneans. The Parliament therefore urges NATCOM and the Mobile Operators in Sierra Leone to consider seriously the under-listed points:
Whereas the parliament is aware that tariffs imposed must cover the cost of providing the service to the consumer and to cover maintenance, additional research and other indirect costs associated with providing the service, the Parliament also urges that telecommunications service providers must be careful not to over-price the service, as prices have a direct influence on demand for that service.
Whereas the Parliament is aware that an increment in telecom tariff will presumably ensure an improved service provision in Sierra Leone as seen in other countries, Mobile Operators in Sierra Leone must also constantly balance the need to provide cheaper rates, with the cost of maintaining the service at an optimum quality that is acceptable to the customer.
Whereas the Parliament is not oblivious of the fact that if an operator charges too much, it risks alienating its customers, resulting in a loss of revenue; and if they charge too little, they will have insufficient capital to maintain the network's quality of service; the parliament is also conscious of the fact that tariffing systems vary from country to country, but in general they are based on several simple principles and if these principles are fully implemented, all parties will benefit without hindrance. Recently, as a case study, the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) directed mobile operators to initiate a new data tariff regime from December 1, 2016 in what is effectively a price increase but in return for better network service provision. In the wisdom of the parliament, we think this replicated in Sierra Leone.
On this note therefore, the Youth Parliament is of the firm conviction that the problem of poor network service can be addressed if the operators are allowed to make a reasonable increment on the telecommunications tariff. We are not unmindful of the fact that this will not be easy for us as Sierra Leoneans especially considering the current economic situation of many country men and women (including members of the Youth Parliament) – most of whom are students and young graduates, but the brutal truth is that there must be an equilibrium point where both parties (the producers and the consumers) should meet and the outcome must be win –win.
The Parliament wishes to conclude by drawing reference to the Telecommunications Act, 2006 “being an Act that establishes the National Telecommunications Commission, to provide for the licensing and regulation of telecommunication operators and for the promotion of universal access to basic telecommunication services, fair competition for the benefit of investors and the users of telecommunication network and services, to improve the nation, regional and global integration of Sierra Leone in telecommunications and to provide for other related matters”, the Parliament therefore wishes to emphasize the need for NATCOM to constantly continue to provide the required leadership that the commission is known for and to strictly monitor to process in the best interest of the ordinary masses of the country.
The Youth Parliament wants to see a reasonable increment that can be affordable to the least Sierra Leonean and a strong network service which will enable our grandmothers in the most remote villages in Gbonkolenken, Nongowa, Soro, Tonkolimba, Tombo to name but a few will have the opportunity to call in any urban town or city, or even outside Sierra Leone.
The Parliament is aware that negotiations around telecom tariff increment started few years back and since 2009 there has been no increment on it due to the intervention of the regulatory body (NATCOM). The Parliament therefore commends NATCOM on this. As patriotic Sierra Leoneans, our organization may not want to see a circumstance in which the people will suffer the deprivation of not enjoying strong telecommunication services neither do we want to see a situation in which mobile operators will run at a loss and fold up; this will witness an ugly situation in which Sierra Leonean will lose jobs and some homes will definitely suffer the consequences.
On this note, the Parliament wishes to end by humbly urging all concern to comply with the process by meeting their own side of the bargain.
Long live The Youth Parliament and God bless Sierra Leone.
Osman S. Kanu (Mr.)
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.