August 31, 2016
Alcoholic Beverage Importers have warned that Sierra Leoneans should brace themselves for more suffering, increased unemployment and an attendant huge loss of revenue to government if the National Revenue Authority (NRA) goes ahead with imposing what revelers have described as ‘a killer excise duty’ on imported alcoholic beverages and other drinks.
Prices of imported alcoholic drinks skyrocketed dramatically last week after the NRA invoked the controversial section 22 of the Finance Act of 2016. The said section grants powers to the revenue authority to increase excise duty on imported alcoholic and other drinks.
As the draconian tax imposition begins to bite consumers following the 1000 percentage rise, beer drinkers across the country have condemned the move, calling on government to reverse the decision by negotiating with importers for a reasonable, more lenient rate.
The Alcoholic Beverage Importers have indicated their resolve to negotiate a workable solution out of the seeming economic malaise the new heavy-handed tax would bring to bear on the local economy.
They have written two letters to both Minister of Finance Momodu Kargbo and NRA Commissioner General Haja Isata Kallah-Kamara.
In the correspondence to the minister, he was reminded that the abrupt tax imposition would adversely affect the local economy, which is only beginning to pick-up after a debilitating Ebola outbreak.
“Sir, as a result of the monopolistic provisions of Section 22 of the said Act, Sierra Leone’s free market economy will be isolated and deprived of a choice of imported alcoholic beverages which will eventually stop because of the massive additional financial excise burden which will increase the landed costed exorbitantly,” they said in a letter to the minister.
Also, they warned the NRA Commissioner General that their action would lead to high selling prices of imported alcoholic beverages, smuggling and concomitant loss of much-needed revenue to government, unemployment and also affect the local tourist industry.
Meanwhile, bars and pubs in Freetown have recorded a significant drop in sales since the controversial new tax regime was invoked by the revenue authority. Imported beer which used to sell at Le7,000 is now being sold at Le15,000, representing more than a hundred percent increase.
Thus, analysts have warned that if government fails to review and reduce the ‘killer’ prices, the consumption of cheap but dangerous brew would be the alternative for many unemployed youth, with a potential for increased crime and violence.