by Mahmud Tim Kargbo
It’s now very clear that the well-established commodities IMPORTERS CARTEL in Sierra Leone are on the loose to ensure regime change, come to the 2023 elections, as they are bent on escalating prices of the country’s essential commodities for which the majority of voters depend for their daily survival. Despite the current Bio led government incentives to curb the impact of commodity price increase in the global market, these importers are hell-bent on pursuing their mischievous agenda with some rogue politicians for regime change.
The current government of Sierra Leone is committed to finding the very best ways to alleviate poverty, improve economic outcomes and build stability and prosperity in essential commodities, particularly for the suffering majority that forms the bulk of the country’s population. The Bio led government understands when the private sector expands and increases its productivity, the economy grows. It recognises that when the prices of essential commodities are affordable, the poor can contribute and participate; such economic growth leads to poverty reduction. The government knows that higher and more inclusive development—particularly for girls, women and youth generally—provides people with the best chance to find jobs, raise incomes, and escape poverty. Sierra Leone Government recognises the importance of private sector-led economic growth to increase the country’s prosperity, peace, and stability. With the government’s effort in accelerating the transition from aid-based relationships to ones based on two-way trade and investment, Sierra Leoneans by now would have seen an increasing share of Sierra Leone’s development effort put towards building the right conditions to encourage the growth of vibrant, sustainable and inclusive private sectors across the country.
Government efforts in this direction are clearly manifested in the 2021 Finance Act in which series of incentives were made available to the private sector with particular reference to the importers of these essential commodities. For instance, in its drive to promote food security, the Bio led government eliminated the 5% import duty on wheat flour to zero per cent, and the Goods and Services Tax of 15% on the same wheat flour was completely removed. This was done by the government to encourage the production of bread. Due to these measures, the government revenue loss per year on wheat importation as a result of these actions in monetary terms is about Forty-Seven Billion, One Hundred Million Leones ( Le 47,100,000,000), which is equivalent to $4,700,000 USD. This is categorised as follows; GST Exemption on bulk grain import (Le 11,300,000,000), the elimination of the import duty rate from 5% to 0 % ( Le 3,600,000,000), and the GST exempted on the imported wheat flour ( Le 32,200,000,000).
The government in its drive to ensure the ’’bread and butter’’ needs are achieved, the 10% tax on rice importation that was to be reinstated by the current Bio led administration based on ECOWAS protocols, was not heeded. This has led the government to lose revenue on rice importation to the amount of Four Hundred Billion, Nine Hundred Million Leones ( Le 400,900,000,000), which is equivalent to $ 40.9m. The government further went forward to eliminate the GST on financial fees based on financial transactions which amounted to Thirty-One Billion Leones ( Le 31,000,000,000), equivalent to $3,100,000
THE REAL ROGUES, GOVERNMENT OR IMPORTERS CARTEL?
From the above analysis, right-minded nationals can easily deduce that the government has done sufficiently enough to ensure the needs of the ordinary people are met. Unfortunately, several odd actions by the importer’s cartel continue to sabotage government actions in realising its agenda ( bread and butter) for the suffering majority.
The evidence is very clear. The Bio led government believes providing essential commodities at affordable prices to meet the pockets of the suffering majority is the engine of growth. The government of Sierra Leone is doing this because it believes essential commodities businesses drive growth, create jobs and pay the taxes that finance services and investment. The truth is in most developing countries, the private sector generates 90 per cent of employment, funds 60 per cent of all investments and provides more than 80 per cent of government revenues.
The Bio led government understands this very well yet they agreed to massively cut down taxes to encourage commodity importers in Sierra Leone to keep on providing an ever-increasing share of essential commodities in the country at affordable prices to make the lives of the suffering majority better.
By massively cutting down taxes on imported essential commodities, the Bio led government agrees that sustainable and inclusive private sector-led growth that contributes to reducing poverty and make the lives of the suffering majority better does not happen of its own accord. To make this happen, the importers of essential commodities need to be encouraged and supported to produce high and inclusive growth while still generating the profits needed to succeed and grow. The government is aware that importers of essential commodities are critical to the economic growth and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone, but they cannot and do not act alone. That’s why the Bio led government is playing a central role in supporting economic growth and reducing poverty by massively cutting down taxes on imported essential commodities to ensure their prices are affordable to meet the pockets of the suffering majority.
The government of Sierra Leone under President Bio has provided a good policy for importers of essential commodities in Sierra Leone by massively cutting down taxes to ensure an efficient supply of essential goods at affordable prices to make sure the importers of these commodities thrive, and the benefits of growth reach all citizens. However, as well as developing and prosecuting policies that promote growth for the general good, the government of President Bio must also commit to build and sustain the institutions that implement, oversee and regulate those policies to prevent importers from unnecessarily inflating the prices of these commodities to avoid profiteering that will lead to untold suffering in the lives of the already poor majority.
President Bio’s government has created an enabling environment that encourages investors in essential commodities to invest without engaging in profiteering. The challenging, but uncomfortable truth is that President Bio’s government policy and legislative decisions determine the scale and quality of economic growth to a large degree. Therefore, importers of essential commodities should have capitalised on it and make prices affordable to meet the pockets of ordinary people.
President Bio’s government model of a massive tax cut for importers of essential commodities in the economy with flourishing patriotic importers is supposed to give Sierra Leone the best chance of increasing prosperity and living standards.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance and the National Revenue Authority understand that the provision of public goods is a crucial determinant of quality of life for individuals and communities and, hence, the attractiveness of Sierra Leone to private sector investment, especially in the area of essential commodities. These institutions combined and realised it is in the Bio led government’s interest to promote growth that advantages the poor. They know this not only improves social stability but also increases the poor’s capacity to contribute and thereby further boosts economic growth in the country.
The current government of Sierra Leone is aware that the suffering majority are low-income earners. Therefore, as part of its rapid economic expansion, it has decided to massively cut down taxes on essential commodities to allow all citizens to have a share in the growth by being well fed. Unfortunately, the well-established importer’s cartel is sabotaging the government’s economic transformations in the commodities sector by inflating prices of essential commodities and are currently having far-reaching implications with unnecessary tension between the line Ministry, agencies government and the general public.
In conclusion, the real rogue in this relationship is the importer’s cartel that’s massively exploiting these loopholes to enrich themselves in order to stage-manage the regime change in the country through siding with unholy alliances by providing the necessary finances for a regime.