The Minister of Trade and Industry Alimamy ‘Petito’ Koroma has admitted to some of the difficulties faced by the business community in Sierra Leone particularly in the areas of business registration and customs duty for both NRA and the Ministry of Finance.
During an interview with the Minister of Trade at Light House Hotel yesterday on his reaction to the latest protests made by importers which resulted in the closure of several business houses over high customs duty at the port, the minister said “We have received the reports as a Government and we will intervene accordingly, so as to ease the constraints faced by the business community by reducing some of the bottle necks to ease the constraints in doing business in Sierra Leone”
“We have come to substantial gains with the importers, NRA and the Finance Ministry to sign a memorandum of understanding that will reflect the interest of both the business community and Government” he said.
On his reaction to the protest he said that, the government has provided the space for an engagement, the importers Association has the right to present their position to advocate and the issues raised will be adequately addressed with a review of our policies relating to trade and we will negotiate with them.
Government is not good at business but they can monitor and regulate businesses for a level playing field and also give the free hand to operate a business because it is out of the generated revenue that Government gets what it uses to undertake development programmes in the country.
The Minister highlighted some of the reported bottle necks in doing business in the country by citing the business registration procedures that take over thirty two working days and also spoke about the fourteen steps to start a business.
“We have got plans to reduce the number of days to register a business to five and steps of procedure will also be reduced to four to enable those wanting to start a business expressly. He also spoke about plans to decentralize the trade ministry and computerize the filling system which will form part of the new reforms in the business sector.”
In the area of free trade and trade liberalization the minister expressed commitment and determination to identify key areas of investment and empowerment opportunities to support the public and private sectors to succeed in doing business in Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile the Minister also commented about his recent trip to the Provinces with special reference to the border posts where he witnessed a market at Barmoi to get first hand information about cross border trade in that part of the country.
Events at an International market in Kambia called Barmoi where he made a stop were under serious criticisms by the business community over the control of the market and utilizations of funds generated from the market for its smooth running.
He further explained that some unscrupulous individuals in the name of organizations have been harassing, intimidating and exploiting traders in the name of Government. The scene was chaotic full of confusion which had an adverse effect and detriment on the business and consumers.
The Custom post at Pamlap in the Northern Region was also a trouble spot as vehicles from Guinea transporting goods were stopped and traders were also facing serious difficulties at the Customs post. He however informed the business community and government officials to promote good business principles and reforms of trade policies are underway to make Sierra Leone a place worthy of doing business.
Concluding the Minister called on the business community to exercise patience as the government is working hard to improve on procedures and facilities to boost trade. By Saidu Bah