Opposition Leader: 5% tax on rice will worsen suffering on the poor

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Hon.Abdul Kargbo is skeptical that Feed Salone will work

By Jariatu S Bangura

Leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), Hon. Abdul Kargbo, has charged that the restoration of five percent excise duty on imported rice, as provided for in the 2024 Finance Act, is a means of exacerbating the already suffering on the poor citizens across the country.

Last week Thursday, Parliament enacted the Finance Act 2024, which provides for the restoration of excise duty of 5% on rice, increase of tax from 5% to 10 on iron rod, an increase of 10% to 20% on cement and GST threshold from Le100,000 to NLe500,000, among others.

Speaking to Concord Times, Hon. Abdul Kargbo noted that as opposition they should be in a position to help the ruling party  in making policies that will be helpful to the people and not making things difficult for them.

He reiterated that Parliament should be seen reducing the burden on citizens and not exacerbating it in the midst of an economic quagmire.

He said the reason government in 2021 suspended the excise duty on rice was that things were very difficult in the country, but noted that rice is now more expensive than before when the excise duty was suspended.

The opposition Member of Parliament said the exchange rate has been sky rocketed now than when the tax was suspended in 2021.

He said after the duty was suspended, the price of rice keeps escalating, citing that in 2018 it was 200,000 old Leones and now it is over 700,000 old Leones for a bag of rice, depending on the type of rice one may want to buy.

He said as an opposition, they are not optimistic that the feed Salone initiative will be very productive, especially when government has not even bought the machinery or sow the seeds for the project.

He said even though the project has not even started, but that government went ahead and imposed tax on rice, starving people now till the project kicks off. 

“If from 2021 we have suspended tax on rice, it would cause this government no harm if the suspension continues for the next one year. Why the haste?  We don’t know. There is a unique custom to us all as Sierra Leoneans. Even when cassava, potatoe or other food is being served to us to eat without rice, we would still say we have not eaten anything since morning,” he said.

He said the opposition was in no way trying to stop the government from generating revenue, but that they should consider the poor people by not shifting the burden to them.

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