By Jariatu S. Bangura
During the ratification of the Air Services Agreements, Paramount Chief Member of Parliament from Tonkoliki District observed that the agreements have many loop holes and expressed the need to look into the issue for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
The agreements ratified by parliament were: Air Services between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Government of the State of Kuwait, Air Transport agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the United States of America, agreement between the government of Qatar and the government of Sierra Leone; and Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Sierra Leone and the State of Qatar, relating to the operations of air transport respectively.
Hon. P.C Bai Kurr Sanka III described the agreements as one sided, saying that the country was yet to have a national airline but continues to sign and ratify airline agreements.
“We are giving them the right to come into our country, but we do not have an airline as a country. And, even with this, we pay them dollars all these years. It will be good that we think and have creativity in mind as a country,’’ he said.
The Paramount Chief Member of Parliament pointed out that government has been indulged in hiring airplanes for decades, thus expressing concern as to when the country will have one for itself.
Referring to the agreements, he said foreigners have greater advantage than the locals especially in the management level, adding that they do all the underground work for themselves.
“Lots of things are not in our favour, no taxes are paid. What they do when they come and go out of our country; we don’t do such when we go into their planes. There is need to negotiate for us to have something tangible. All the managers are from their side,” he said.
Hon. P.C Bai Kurr noted that too many charges are paid for air tickets, yet they continue reaping people off.
“We still do not have better seats in these planes. They will even put us at the far back even with this agreement and benefits they are enjoying from our country,” he reiterated.
In his presentation during the ratification of the agreements, Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Rec Bonapha, said the agreements would be run with no financial cost on the government of Sierra Leone, but to continually negotiate treaties that will allow international aviation to grow and also expand.
The Deputy Minister said the bilateral system has allowed the aviation to grow into a vibrant industry in the country and that it will be the sole right to liberalize the network.
He said the agreements will facilitate the transport and its intended development factor, boost productivity, promote tourism, improve the efficiency of supply chains, enable investment and labour supply both into and outside the country and the Western region.
He further stated that if ratified, the agreements will give the country a bigger name, adding that no foreign airline is exempted to pay taxes.
Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Aviation, Hon. Maada Lebbie said the agreements will expand international trade and enhance supply chain in the global village, assuring the public that such agreements will keep coming as time goes by as there are many in store that have been signed by previous ministers.