Across section of the business community have expressed serious concerns over the recent increase of market dues by the Freetown City Council described as exorbitant and not commensurate to their daily earnings, hinting that the high taxes may likely crumble some of their businesses.
Plans to increase market dues, tax and license fees have been questioned since evidence of proper utilization of the previous taxes paid to the Freetown City Council have not been clearly forthcoming.
Mohamed Bah a shop owner at Abacha Street told this Press in an interview that his business is presently crumbling because of the increased taxes he now has to pay to the Freetown City Council and the National Revenue Authority which has drastically reduced his profit margin. This he argued has the propensity to make small businesses like his bankrupt.
Another Lebanese entrepreneur who asked not to be named lamented about the low and inadequate investment in the country blaming it on high taxes and tariffs for both importers and exporters.
He also blamed the Government of not doing enough to stabilize the economy.
Most of the market women expressed disappointment and frustration over the high rate of taxes which has resulted to drastic price increases that seriously affect their profit margins as they compete with whole sellers in the big stores.
A market woman named Kadiatu Conteh bitterly complained about the lack of toilet and water facilities in the market and the inadequate ware houses to store their goods, as most of the stores in the market are not safe.
“We buy plots to construct a table or booth with an exorbitant amount and the council is levying heavy taxes on us, this is responsible for the rampant street trading, how do they want us to survive in doing business? She asked angrily and emotionally.
Our reporter went to the Freetown City Council (FCC) to get their own side of the story on how the council is utilizing the funds raised from taxes; the Public Relations Officer of the Freetown City Council Sylvester Mattia fatigued, exhausted and sleepy begged not to have his comment on tape but later accepted to react convincingly to the said allegation.
Mattia said that there were no plans to increase tax and license fees in the Western Area as widely speculated by a cross section of the business community after the recent increase of market dues to Le 300.00, “but when the need arise” he ventured “the council will do so and the public will be adequately informed.”
He added that the Freetown City Council has committed itself to a very good number of infrastructural developmental projects at the City Council Headquarters and the construction of markets, bridges, rehabilitation of drainages and construction of toilet and water facilities in most parts of the city.
On the question of the amount generated by the council and how they are utilizing it he struggled for a while to answer and said “the Freetown City Council ran in to serious deficit of Le 270m (Two Hundred and Seventy Million Leones) in 2008.
He added that there is need to generate more money so that the council will be able to complete its intended projects so as to meet their desired goals for the rapid development of the municipality with the cooperation of the general public particularly the business community.
“We know there is serious problem in health and sanitation in the markets and in some communities, the lack of cesspit truck emptiers meant to dispose sewage is compounding our constraints as the cesspit truck emptier recently developed a mechanical problem and modalities are being mapped out to get spare parts from abroad” he confessed.
He appealed to tax payers and the general public to exercise patience as the council is committed and determined to develop the Freetown Municipality to a city with international standards but money to run the council has not been forthcoming for the smooth running of the council and plans to collect market dues at night will also commence soonest after the facilities had been completed.
By Saidu Bah