The President of the Sierra Leone Importers Association has expressed disappointment and frustration over the delay in signing a proposed Memorandum of Understanding between Importers and the Government as earlier promised them in a meeting with both NRA and officials of the Finance Ministry.
Making this disclosure to our reporter in an interview yesterday, at his LightFoot Boston Stationary shop, the President of the importers Association said they are dismayed with the Government for not fulfilling their own side of the bargain to sign an MOU that will cover the period of (90) ninety days.
“We thought this Government was responsible and serious in addressing the plight of the importers, we deliberately decided to protest on World Customs day so as to bring to the attention of the authorities concerned the suffering importers are going through in the Country.”
This Press yesterday contacted the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development Momodu Kargbo on phone. He disclosed that they have presented the matter to cabinet and they are still negotiating with importers as a follow up to their early meetings.
He also said that the MOU will be going through governmental processes and in any case it is not a memorandum of understanding and the Minister of Trade has been instructed to meet the importers tomorrow so as to partner for the development of the country.
He however called on the general membership of the Importers Association to exercise patience as all modalities will be worked out to ensure that the Government complies with their demands in reducing tariffs and value for goods at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority in line with both NRA and Finance Ministry.
In another development Tanu Jalloh have reported bottle necks in clearing and forwarding goods at the Sierra Leone Port Authority there is central command at the Port Authority and that sub offices like the ONS has compounded the situation making it very difficult to import goods in to the country.
He further complained about the exorbitant value for goods at the port by Custom officials and other irrelevant institution at the port who are creating unnecessary exploitations and bureaucratic hurdles on importers “there is serious problem at the port particularly with the Port administration and security personnel”
The presence of Security personnel from ONS has largely been blamed for driving away potential investors and local importers out of the country because they always create panic and confusion at the port. He also disclosed that importation of goods in to the country have drastically reduced to 60%
The command and control at the port he said is also confusing and chaotic as there are people at the port who are bent on harassing and exploiting investors through corrupt practices and there is a tendency to discourage importers as a result revenue generation was drastically reduced at the port in 2008.
Tanu Jalloh also spoke about priorities to be given to certain goods at the Port and that there is a need to consider basic commodities in giving duty free concessions particularly for goods that are in high demand by the poor who are facing extreme hardship in the country.
The business community has decided to embark on risking lives at sea to transport goods from Guinea while others have resulted to smuggling due to high customs tariffs and exorbitant value for goods.
He also made reference to undue harassment and exploitations taking place in the border areas as there are growing fears over the declaration of goods by traders at Customs Post along the Sierra Leonean border which may result to bribery and corruption.
“Some of the difficulties faced by importers in the Country have largely been responsible for investors to leave for neighboring countries where there are minimal value for goods and less custom tariffs at their ports.” By Saidu Bah