Intense Lobbying With House of Representatives on 1¢ Per Minute Call

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Monrovia – Following the public outcry on the imposition of the US$0.1 per minute tax on telecommunication voice calls, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, along with the Speaker’s office, set up a committee to review the impact of the tax on the ordinary and impoverished masses to come up with recommendations/suggestions to ease the burden on the consumers.

Reliable sources from both the House of Representatives and the President’s office are quoted as saying that intense lobbying is going on by LonestarCell and LRA Commissioner General Madam Elfreda Tamba, with both the lower House and the President’s office not to amend the law but to keep the 1 cent tax on all voice calls

The Committee, comprising of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, the Liberia Revenue Authority along with representatives from the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning and team from the President’s office met and drafted two proposals for increasing tax without directly affecting the promotional “3 days free call” offers by the GSM Companies.

The two proposals agreed upon by the joint committee include a) imposition of the US$0.1 per minute tax on billable minutes at the current chargeable tariffs set by the companies and b) increase G. S. T on recharge cards by 7.5%. Accordingly, operators can still offer the “3 days free call” to the public while the Government gains additional revenue to support the National Budget.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that at the insistence of Liberia Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Madam Elfieda Tamba, a third proposal was put forth to impose a $0.003 tax on all voice calls.

Cogent information obtained from a committee member who prefers anonymity is that other committee members rejected the proposal, stating that any tax put on all voice calls will definitely affect the “3 days free call” offers by Operators and that the tax will be a direct burden on the consumers.

Her proposal was reportedly opposed by the Chairperson of Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Angelique Weeks.

The Committee later submitted the report with the three proposals to the Speaker of the House, Emmanuel Nuquay, recommending that the House considers the first proposal to impose the US$0.1 per minute tax on the billable minutes; instead on all voice calls and that by so doing, Operators will still offer the “3 days free calls”.

The Committed, according to sources, requested the House to amend the tax law accordingly and give the LTA and Operators a three (3) month grace period for public awareness and to enable the Operators to adjust their billing systems accordingly.

Information gathered is that Dr. Augustine Jarrett, Economic Advisor to the President, appealed to the Speaker to hold on to the amendment of the tax law to give him time to brief the President accordingly. It is more than two weeks since the request was made by Dr. Jarrett to the Speaker but nothing has been heard from either the President’s office or from the House of Representatives on the way forward with amending the tax law.

Reliable sources from both the House of Representatives and the President’s office are quoted as saying that intense lobbying is going on by LonestarCell and LRA Commissioner General Madam Elfrieda Tamba, with both the lower House and the President’s office not to amend the law but to keep the US$1 tax on all voice calls.

Information gathered is that the letter written by Lonestarcell CEO, Babatunde Osho, in which he admitted that his Deputy CEO, Mr. Lewis Roberts, lied under oath to the lawmakers, and apologized on the company’s behalf, was only intended to deceive customers and divert the public attention from it as the proponent of the tax law.

Some lawmakers have intoned that Lonestar’s lobbying for the tax law to remain is only a political machination by All Liberian Party leader Benoni Urey to make the current lawmakers unpopular with their electorates and have them voted out during the forthcoming Presidential & General elections, thereby giving his party the chance of winning some seats in the lower house.

They are aware that the public, particularly the electorates from the various constituencies, most especially those from the impoverished rural constituencies, rely heavily on the “3 days free call” services and will boot out any lawmaker that connives with MTN or any other person to impose the tax on them.

Those lawmakers have therefore vowed to vehemently oppose and reject any attempt by some of their colleagues not to amend the tax law.

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