Tuesday 12th November 2019, members of the Sierra Leone parliament unanimously approved the 2020 Finance Bill to become an Act after a protracted sitting that went well into the night hours. The bill provides for the imposition and alteration of taxes, to facilitate the financial proposals of the government and to provide for other matters for the coming financial year. Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa tabled the bill in the Well of Parliament. Members of Parliament went through the rigors of first retiring into a pre-legislative session for a better understanding of the provisions contained in it. According to Saffa, the bill seeks to reduce leakages and enhance the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in its revenue mobilization drive in order to bring home the resources that would be needed to stimulate economic development. He added that the legislation would make way for the NRA to digitize tax collection and ensure tax compliance. Saffa said the finance act sets out to amend a couple of old regulations to clarify definitions of different provisions, defining what is raw material, input, packaging etc. are, and other Acts of Parliament that pertain to revenue collection and other procurement issues.
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“The act also seeks to impose excise duties on what is produce and income tax, introduce the transfer pricing legislation as international best practice,” he noted. Making his contribution before the bill was passed, the Chairman of the Finance Committee in Parliament, Honourable Francis Amara Kaisamba described the Finance Act as the tool which the government would use to gather the much needed resources to support development program in the 2020 budget. “All these are in the 2020 budget are just proposals and they can be implemented only when the NRA has the money for that would support them,” he added. Hon Kaisamba called on his colleague MPs to look at the bill with what he described as “a nationalistic eye” with a view of supporting the government in having the financial capacity to stir the affairs of the state. Honourable Daniel Koroma of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) agreed with Hon. Kaismaba that the bill was very important for the country’s economic development. He also asked MPs to support the process in passing the bill but cautioned that the process of doing that should be correct and well thought of. Hon. Koroma noted that the rights of the masses whom they represent should not be compromised. “We should not focus on wanting to generate much revenue with methods that may be detrimental to the people we represent and the investors that are responsible for the economic growth we are craving for,” he stated. The Paramount Chief Member Of Parliament representing Tonkolili District, Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sanka III submitted that levying more taxes on companies would make the final consumer to suffer the ripple effect. He noted that the poor people should not be made to pay more taxes as the rich or pay for the rich. Hon. Bai Kurr stated that the economic transformation the government is trying to institute should be seen in the lives of the people. “You will not have economic growth without economic development,” he added. He furthered that the finance act should be made to encourage investors and focus on job creation, which is one of the messages in the 2020 budget.
By Abdulai Gbla
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