The Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture has raised concern over the recent 50% National Power Authority (NPA) tariff increase and lack of equipments at the quay.
This was disclosed by the President of the Chamber, Henry Akie Macauley at their 47th Annual Business Dinner at the Sierra Leone Bank Complex in Freetown, sponsored by the fastest growing financial institution, United Bank of Africa (UBA).
He intimated that the membership of the Chamber is beginning to feel the pinch; adding that reducing the cost of doing business could further be enhanced if everybody could be assured of a reliable and regular supply of electricity.
The President noted that they have paid keen attention to electricity supply particularly in the capital, which has registered some improvement although there is still room for improvement; noting that people are gratified to note that the Bumbuna hydro-electric project would be completed in April 2009.
With regard to water supply, he pointed out that this Country used to boast of plentiful supply of water, but lack of it in recent times is a cause for concern.
Deforestation and uncontrolled development of virgin forest areas in the name of housing development are having a toll on water supply, he stated.
Henry Macauley then recommended on behalf of the Private Sector a moratorium on logging, a halt on the construction of hillside houses, tree felling particularly around water catchments areas stopped and heavy penalty introduced for any contravention.
On the area of agriculture, he said that this sector is the mainstream activity in any economy, as it could enhance the growth of other sectors.
He stressed that shipping charges are high as compared to neighboring countries; lack of equipments at the Quay is evident (only one fork lift) and ships stay longer than is necessary.
Importers, he said, have to pay demurrages which eventually lead to extra charges being levied on goods.
Scanning fees of $50 for a 20ft container and $100 for a 40ft container were abolished few months ago, but this was short lived, he stated.
He maintained that a fee of $217 for 20ft container and $240 for a 40ft container has been replaced by a new port additional invoice fee.
The Chamber, he said, is requesting Government to reconsider these exorbitant fees, which are contributing to the high cost of imported items particularly foodstuff.
For tourism, he reaffirmed that they appreciate the moves being made to develop the infrastructure to accommodate the tourist industry, but travel in and out of the Country is still troublesome.
With reference to Education, the Chamber of Commerce President noted that this year’s examination results have not been good and therefore urged Government to continue in its drive to lay emphasis on capacity building at all levels, particularly the development of the girl child.
On health, Macauley noted that, the absence of modern diagnostic facilities is having a heavy toll on life expectancy.
In the area of infrastructure and transportation, he stated that the plan for road construction country wide and the drainages that go towards sustainable road maintenance is a welcome idea.
Speaking on mining and mineral resources, he maintained that the wealth of the Country should not be mortgaged in an unprofessional manner.
The financial sector reform programme is a move in the right direction; as a dynamic and vibrant financial sector holds the key to capital injection into the real sector, corporate bodies, and small and medium size enterprises, he averred.
He concluded that the future is bright if those concerned would endeavor to address the pressing issues of energy, infrastructure and agriculture.
On his own part, President Koroma said that “we as government cherished the close ties we have with the private sector”, adding that, this forum offers the right atmosphere to interact with government and the private sector.
Commenting on the issues raised by the Chamber, President Koroma said these issues are fundamental to government and they are top of the agenda.
President Koroma then expressed hope that the private sector would help to effect the change needed by the people.
The Managing Director of UBA, Abdurrahman Yinusa said that the bank partners with the Chamber as part of their corporate social responsibility.
He listed some of the achievements the bank has made since its inception four months ago; maintaining that within this period they have launched the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) sponsored Money Matters for Kids” and providing first class services for their customers.
By Abibatu Kamara & Saidu Bah