…with the advent of 2017 Finance Act
June 12, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
President, Sierra Leone Importers’ Association (SLIA), Alhaji Alpha Tanue Jalloh, has said with the advent of the 2017 Finance Act, government would be sure of making fifteen billion Leones (Le15bn) monthly from his members.
He made the above claim in his Rawdon Street office in Freetown on Tuesday, while responding to an exclusive interview from Concord Times on the impact of the 2016 Finance Act on his membership and the hope that the 2017 Finance Act will bring to them.
“The 2017 Finance Act is positive not only for importers but also for the state. The state was denied certain funds by the 2016 Finance Act but reasonably, some experts came together to amend it and that has paved a way for the 2017 Finance Act,” he said.
He noted that when the 2017 Finance Act is given a Presidential Assent, the state will start to receive the fifteen billion Leones (Le15b) it used to get every month on alcoholic beverages alone.
He said as business people, they were looking for avenues that would enable the facilitation of doing business in the country, and that, if the 2017 Finance Act would be one of those instruments, they urge President Koroma to sign it so that it would automatically become a law.
SLIA President recalled that the 2016 Finance Act was a hindrance to government’s revenue collection, because it frustrated importers from importing, especially alcoholic beverages, which import duties were a major source to the growth of the country’s economy.
“The 2016 Finance Act mandated importers of alcoholic beverages to be paying USD7, 540,000 per container. For us, it was unimaginable, so we stopped the importation until the 2017 Finance Act, which gives leverages on imported alcoholic drinks, is given the Presidential Assent,” he said.
He disclosed that prior to the 2016 Finance Act, they used to pay 30% per container of alcoholic drinks, which was at least 200 million Leones (Le200m).
He cited section 22 (03) of the 2016 Finance Act which states that importers of alcoholic beverages with less than 10% should pay US$4 per Littre and importers of alcoholic drinks with more than 10% alcoholic content should pay US$6 per Littre.
The same Act, he added, stated that locally manufactured alcoholic drinks of more than 10% alcoholic content should attract excise rate of 30%, noting that locally manufactured beer of more than 80% locally produced raw materials including sorghum and cassava must attract an excise rate of 5%.
“Because of this, we realized that government was losing revenue because we stopped importing the drinks. Even though we have our corporate social responsibility, we also anticipated profit prior to the advent of the 2016 Finance Act. When we compared section 22 (03&09) of the 2016 Finance Act, there is no state on earth that has such a policy or law, which undermines business and automatically hinders revenue collection. It’s unimaginable, that kills business,” he said.
He recalled that it was the same way cigarette importers were frustrated in the 1970s and 80s and that government was spending huge sum of money to pay security personnel to control smuggle along the country’s border communities.
Asked whether he was aware of alleged smuggling by his membership because of the 2016 Finance Act, he replied in the negative, claiming that those who helped government to prepare the 2016 Finance Act were also probably involved in smuggling of imported alcoholic beverages and not his membership.
He disclosed that government encountered lots of problems when they passed the 2016 Finance Act, recalling that there were concerns of youth unemployment, payment of salaries and benefits to certain set of people, among others.
He said it was because of certain people’s idea that government must concentrate on a minute set of people, who are not contributing much to the development of the country, adding that government because of the 2016 Finance Act, was unable to address the numerous economic challenges that it faced by leaving out the importers, who contribute immensely to the growth of the economy.