MEMBERS OF THE LOWER House of the Liberian legislature took a recess hike to inflict more hardship on the Liberian people with their vote this week to for increment in tariffs on cellular calls.
Free Call Snub A Travesty of Shame
ON TUESDAY, legislators voted in favour of the passage of the proposed tax amendment act of 2016 which has been the subject of major controversy.
WE HAVE SAID HERE before and will gladly say again that any government which decides to impose taxes on its citizens as a remedy to solve the economic mess it has created does not mean well for those who stood in line to put them into office.
THIS WEEK’S DECISION by the House of Representatives based on a report from the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Judiciary is bound to cause hardship and make ordinary Liberians feel the pinch in ways very few anticipated.
THE ACT CALLS FOR taxes to be increased from 7% to 10% on tobacco, 35% on imported water and 2% for locally produced water and that taxes on residential buildings are increased from 0.083% to 0.25%.
IT ALSO WANTS every caller or phone consumer within Liberia to pay US$0.01 (1 U.S. cent) per minute on all calls, under a plan approved as a Special Amendment to the Liberia Revenue Code (LRC) as proposed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The imposition of excise of $0.01 per minute on phone calls was proposed by the President to support the 2016/2017 Fiscal Budget.
WE FIND THIS DISTURBING for several reasons. Such an approach where taxes are transferred to consumers and the private sector is bad for business.
SADLY, UNLIKE many draft legislations which tend to impact the economy, stakeholder consultations are usually held to solicit the input of the affected sectors. However, in the case of the amendments to the Revenue Code, no consultations were held and the proposed tax amendments have come as a total surprise to the business community which is already undergoing hardships. The move once again demonstrates the lack of government sensitivity to the plight of local businesses.
THE LAWMAKERS also voted that taxes be increased on land within city or town limits currently at 2% be increased to 3.5% and that goods and services taxes be increased from 10% and 5% to 15% on hotel services, gambling services and restaurant services including GST on alcoholic beverages.
EXCISE TAX ON ALCOHOLIC beverages was also increased from 35% to 45% for both locally produced and imported.
FURTHERMORE, alcoholic beverages imported should be placed at 45% while locally produced should be reduced to 25% in order to promote and protect local Liberian producer’s base on experts’ advice as it was done in the case of water, the act suggests.
THE IMPACT OF THE new taxes is likely to yield much in terms of return for the government as many subscribers are now using such apps as Whatsapp, Viber, and Facebook to make their international calls. With the increase in the cost of international calls, one can expect an increase in the use of such free apps which would surely negatively impact sales and revenue. But more importantly, it is illegal and preposterous to expect to collect taxes where there are no sales, thus no revenue or income.”
BOTH THE EXECUTIVE and legislative branches of government have done a disservice to the people of Liberia with this new wave taxes in the fashion of robbing the poor to satisfy the rich and corrupt.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT should be concern about now is enforcing and implementing a presidential mandate on wasteful travels and expenditures by senior government officials and not inflicting more harm than good on ordinary folks.
LIBERIA IS AT A CROSSROADS with inflation at an all-time high due to the depreciation of the Liberian dollar in the past months. As a result, the government led by the Executive and legislative branches appear to have run out of ideas on how to fix the economic mess it has created by imposing more tariffs on people on bread and butter issues affecting a cross-section of Liberia, mainly those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.
TARGETING THE telecommunications sector in a bid to save the mess of an economy is not only wrong but a poor taste in leadership that must not be allowed to stand.
LIBERIANS MUST return the favour bestowed on them at the polls in 2017 by voting each and every member of the national legislature who have put their name behind this tragic and messy legislation.
HOW SOON do we forget that attack on bread and butter issue, rice in particular was a driving force responsible for the April 14, 1979 rice riots from which Liberia never recovered.
TODAY, OUR SO-CALLED government actors are at it again: Robbing the poor and needy to satisfy the thirst of a few wealthy and corrupt officials, lining up to fill the pockets to the detriment of the poor and needy.
WE HOPE that voters return the favor come 2017. You put them there, show them where it hurts, when it matters the most.