Cabinet Ministers , representatives from the Office of Solicitor General, Administrator General, SLIEPA, NASSIT ,NRA ,Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of Sierra Leone, recently converged at the office of the Sierra Leone Business Forum to witness a presentation by a member of the World Bank Group and also Senior Private Sector Development Specialist, Melissa John on business reform in Sierra Leone.
The World Bank Specialist highlighted vital recommendations already mapped out by her organization in conjunction with the Government of Sierra Leone for Business Reform in Sierra Leone.
She spoke on the issues regarding the starting up of a business in Sierra Leone, which includes, license procedures; employing workers; registering the business and property; accessing credit; protecting investors; paying taxes; trading across borders and enforcing contracts.
Starting a business in Sierra Leone, she said, requires standard memorandum and article of association, eliminating requirements for obtaining a business license from the Municipality, computerizing business data and reducing procedures, time and cost to register a company and to also consolidate government approvals at one access point.
Melissa averred that in order to inculcate the principle of best practice in doing business, some of the bottle necks and bureaucracies are to be removed.
On the issue of license, she noted that, there should be access to building permit at all levels right from the Freetown Municipality to the District Land Management Authorities and online.
Development of a brochure describing the process of obtaining a permit and making schedule of the fees available to public, she noted, was significant in doing business.
She stressed that issuance of certificate after completing construction, with final inspection forming part of the recommendations.
With regards employment, the World Bank Specialist observed that lower cost of association with redundancy dismissals, reduce restriction on work hours for weekly holidays and the lower the number of mandatory vacation days, were crucial in doing business.
Lessening restrictions on the maximum number of working days and also allow fixed-term contract for permanent tasks were all part of the recommendations.
A standardized conveyance for public use was also recommended by the Specialist.
Unhindered access to loan and reduction in the number of taxes by simplifying tax administration were all discussed; but representatives from various sectors made contrary statements with regard the attitude of some investors who breeze in tentatively only to end up grabbing diamonds, courtesy of Lawyer Lahai Farmah from the Solicitor General’s Office .
A representative from the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) Raymond Kai Gbekie, observed that his Agency was exclusively set up by government to take inventories of investors coming in and out of the Country, but most of them dodged his offices.
He however stated that plans are underway to track all investors coming into the Country, adding that his organization should have record of the type of business any investor is seeking to do in the Country for security reasons.
Melissa John was quoted to have said that they operate all over the world with various governments, by giving technical assistance in the form of advice to governments on doing business to boost the private sector, in order to enhance economic growth.
She added that they were very much encouraged by some of the progress made so far in the area of business reforms in Sierra Leone, noting that implementing more reforms would develop the private sector, create employment and also attract international investment.
By Solomon Rogers