Finance Act 2024 is friendly

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The 2024 Finance Act is not just a document crafted to raise revenue for government but intended to protect the health of Sierra Leoneans and seeks to also save the environment from further depletion. It is an act that seeks to recover the losses that the government and people of Sierra Leone have incurred over the years from the hands of a few business people,   generate enough money for the provision of other services most especially the Feed Salone agenda, and cater for the health and environment of the country.

Some sections of the 2024 Finance Act were deliberately created to salvage the country from further revenue loss by the government, which has a broad agenda as encapsulated in the Big 5 game changers. While it may seem to be imposing taxes on commodities that had not been taxed over the years, it is in reality just restoring taxes and duties that were suspended or exempted over the years due to some external factors.

For example, in the Amendment to the Customs Tariff 1978, the Act basically restores the 10% duty on rice that had been in existence before, but was suspended in 2008 during the global crisis of that year. The intention of government at the time of suspending the duty on rice was to ease the burden of importation by the rice importers with a view to making it available and affordable to the public. Since 2008 to 2023 government had been losing huge revenue from the duty on rice, and a few rice importers have been benefiting from the magnanimity of government but they keep increasing the price of rice. So whilst government is losing revenue with the aim of keeping prices low and affordable, the importers have been hiking prices on the ordinary citizens. With an elaborate Feed Salone project now on the horizon, government has deemed it fit to restore duty on rice to its original 10% but in two phases. A 5% duty restoration has already been effected since January this year and another 5$ will come into effect in January 2025 – making it 10%.

The same scenario is true for cement and iron rod. During the Covid-19 which was almost immediately followed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which led to a disruption in the supply chain of these commodities, government lifted the import duty on them of 10% for cement and 20% for iron rod. The rationale was to minimize the effect of the global supply chain disruption on the local market. Now that there is stability in the supply chain it is imperative that the duties be restored so that government can generate funds to service other needs like infrastructure.

In the case of cooking gas, whilst the 5% import duty was removed so that it can be available and affordable and people would be encouraged to use clean energy to cook and not to indulge in firewood and charcoal which are hazardous to the environment, it had a reverse impact. The price of cooking gas keeps soaring, even though government is not deriving revenue from it. Due to the said factor and in order to raise revenue to service afforestation programs, government has restored the 5% duty on cooking gas.

In it’s entirety, the 2024 Finance Act is a friendly document for Sierra Leone. It is one that Sierra Leoneans should embrace as it seeks to raise much needed revenue for the provision of some services for the people.

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