By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament yesterday unanimously ratified eight bilateral air services agreements to allow international commercial air transport services between signatory countries that are members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The agreements include the bilateral air services agreement, record of discussions between the Sierra Leone and the Republic of Tanzania, bilateral air services signed between Sierra Leone and Czech Republic, bilateral air services agreement, Memoradum of Understanding between Sierra Leone and the Republic of Mozambique, bilateral air services agreement, record of discussions between Sierra Leone and the Republic of Kenya and bilateral air services agreement between Sierra Leone and the government of Iceland.
According to the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Rex Bonapha, the agreements will boost productivity, facilitate world trade, promote tourism, improve sufficiency for the supply chains and enables investment and labour supply both in and out of the country.
He said the air services agreement will provide provisions for traffic rights between bilateral partners and also the number of flights that will operate on a flexible criteria for both partners.
Answering to questions on the $25 collected by Securiport, the deputy minister said, their ministry was not involved in signing of the said agreement, but that a committee have been set up and Parliament will soon be informed on the outcome of the investigation.
Hon. Dr. Kandeh Kolley Yumkella commended the ministry for matching up to the status of other countries, but hoped that after the ratification of such agreements, the price of tickets from Sierra Leone to other countries will be cut down.
He said a lot of discussions have been done for the country to have a logistics production center, based on the upgrading that has taken place at the Lungi Airport.
He said many people go to Conakry to buy plane tickets to Dubai at a lower cost, thus invading the taxes to the government of Guinea rather than Sierra Leone.
Hon. Mark Mahmoud Kalokoh said the agreements before them bear the financial burden on the nation and that it should be speedily ratified.
Acting Leader of Parliament, Hon. Hassan Sesay said the ministry should find ways to help cushion the price rate for the benefits of all as it should be the same within sub-Sahara.
He said regarding the $25 paid at the airport, the agreement was never brought to Parliament and that the concerns raised should be factored in any agreement signed on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone.
On his part, Acting Leader of Government Business, Hon. Bashiru Silikie said as a small country, when agreement of such nature are been signed it is but for the benefit of Sierra Leone and that they should note that it should be good and pleasant.
He said they did call for the Securiport agreement to be brought to Parliament for them to look at it, but to no avail.