Sierra Leone Parliament convenes stakeholders meeting to discuss toll gate tariff increase

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Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, Speaker of Parliament

Bingo Wang, Deputy General Manager of CRSG

Speaker and MPs on the high table

In a bid to address public concerns over the proposed toll gate tariff increase, the Speaker of Parliament of Sierra Leone, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, demonstrated exemplary leadership by convening a Stakeholders Consultative Meeting at the Parliament on Tuesday, 27th February 2024. The meeting was aimed at discussing the toll gate charges and ensuring that they align with the agreement while addressing the concerns of various stakeholders.

The meeting was attended by key representatives from the Minister of Works and Public Assets, Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG), Motor Drivers Union, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media. During the meeting, the Speaker reassured the public that the Parliament is committed to addressing the concerns raised and would conduct due diligence to ensure that all parties are satisfied. He emphasized that the Parliament is democratic and has the best interests of the people at heart, and stands ready to protect foreign investors like the CRSG.

Bingo Wang, Deputy General Manager of CRSG, shed light on the background of the company’s agreement with the government of Sierra Leone, signed in December 2015, approved by the Cabinet and ratified by the Parliament. He highlighted the company’s contributions to socio-economic development, job creation, and infrastructure improvements in the country. Bingo also explained the challenges faced by the company, including financial constraints related to currency exchange rates variation and operations.

Bingo revealed that the Concession Contract was agreed in US$ and the proposed price increase is in line with the contract agreement, which stipulates that there should be an increase in the toll tariff based on currency exchange rates variation. He clarified that the proposed increase is much lower than what is stipulated in the contract and is necessary to address the company’s financial challenges and ensure the continued development of Sierra Leone.

Minister of Works and Public Assets, Dr. Denis Sandy, provided insights into the process leading to the proposed toll gate tariff adjustment. He mentioned receiving a letter from CRSG requesting the review of the toll gate tariff, which led to the formation of a Technical Committee to deliberate on the proposal. Dr. Sandy emphasized that the review process followed due processes and involved consultations with various stakeholders.

Representatives from the Sierra Leone Motor Drivers Union, Civil Society Organizations, and the Sierra Leone Roads Authority voiced their concerns and perspectives on the proposed tariff increase. In addition to concerns, a CSO group pointed out that loss caused by the exchange rate of US dollar cannot be ignored and fuel prices have increased from NLe 6 to NLe 30 in the past six years, and highway operating costs and maintenance costs, including fuel costs, are important considerations in adjusting prices.

Ing. Alfred Jalil Momodu, Director General of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority, reiterated the authority’s commitment to working in the public’s interest and maintaining a proactive relationship with the CRSG.

The Stakeholders Consultative Meeting provided a platform for open dialogue and ensured that the concerns of various stakeholders were heard and addressed. The meeting epitomized the collaborative approach taken by the Speaker of Parliament and the government to engage with the public, industry stakeholders, and civil society organizations to find a balanced resolution to the proposed toll gate tariff increase.

As discussions continue and deliberations evolve, it is clear that the issues surrounding the toll gate tariff increase are complex and require careful consideration of the interests of all parties involved. The commitment of the Parliament and government to protecting foreign investors while addressing public concerns demonstrates a responsible and inclusive approach to governance, fostering transparency and accountability.

In the coming days, it is anticipated that further discussions and negotiations will take place to find a resolution that balances the needs of the CRSG, the public, and the broader economic interests of Sierra Leone. The outcome of the dialogue and subsequent decisions made by the Parliament will undoubtedly have significant implications for the future of toll gate tariffs and the collaborative relationship between the government, foreign investors, and the public in Sierra Leone.

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