Liberians Pressurize Government For Tax on Phone Calls

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Monrovia – The National Association of Telecom Consumers (NATELCO) has condemned the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives which calls for additional ‘one cent per minute’ on all voice calls.

The group is calling on the House of Senate to ignore the House of Representatives’ action in order to avoid additional charges for consumers.

NATELCO, in a statement issued in Monrovia Tuesday said the imposition of additional tax on telecommunications will result in an increase in prices for consumers, which would have adverse impact on the adoption of mobile services and industry investment.

The statement added that the decision is counter-productive to the longer term national digital strategy objectives set by the government of Liberia.  

“Taxation on calls minute will hit lower income consumers who are already struggling due to the adverse economic situation, and increase price pressure on consumers thereby making access to information and communication technology not affordable. Moreover, this will result in a double taxation for consumers who are already paying15% GST on the sale cost of scratch cards,” the statement said.

The statement contended that the Lower House’s action is in total disregard to the petition previously presented to that august body expressing the concerns and position of over two million consumers on the proposed legislation.

According to NATELCO, the proposed tax increment will have a serious effect on the lives of the over 2.5 million subscribers, majority of whom cannot afford to buy a $1.00 recharge card and depend on the 3 days free calls promotional service to keep in touch with their friends, family and love ones.

The group noted that the economy of Liberia was not in the ‘growth mode’ as the 2017 general elections draw near,  something it said means there will continue to be a shortage of jobs, money and disposable income for subscribers to pay the proposed tariff on voice calls.

It continued: “The Telecom Sector of the Liberian economy is the only Sector that continues to perform and generate reliable revenue for GOL when compared to Agriculture (price of rubber is low), Mining (ArcelorMittal has Cut Jobs – no iron ore exports), and the list goes on. 

With the short and long term effects of Ebola  factored into this equation, the economic outlook for our Liberia remains bleak, such new tax will “Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs” and this will lead to more “economic contraction” across the country thus leading to more hardship on the already suffering masses.”

NATELCO in the release called on the Government of Liberia to be more focused on implementing the Universal Access Programs which calls for the decentralization of telecommunications’ facilities around the country and adopting the objectives of ECOWAS’ protocol on telecommunications; which also call for affordable and accessible telecommunications services within every community or town with at least 500 people.

It also disclosed that the organization is currently embarking on a nationwide campaign to garner more support against the Lower Houses’ decision; to be followed by a national convention to be attended by telecom-consumers and stakeholders.

Meanwhile NATELCO is calling on the Government of Liberia through the House of Senate, to prevent the adoption of the additional 1 cent tax on voice calls; adding “this is the call to which they were elected; to represent the interest of their people. As such, it is incumbent upon all Law makers to ensure the enactment of legislation that will improve the lives of the masses and not one that will impose hardship and suffering on the people.”

“NATELCO, as a civil society organization that represents the interest of all tele-consumers throughout the Republic of Liberia, it is our responsibility to ensure understanding among consumers, Service Providers, government ministries and regulatory authorities; and to campaign actively for the enactment of law, enunciation of policies and establishment of   institutions and mechanism for the protection and empowerment of consumers and other consumer groups,” the statement noted.

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