The Finance A
ct 2017, which has been ratified by Parliament, is yet to be sent to State House for the President’s signature or approval which is normally referred to in Parliamentary parlance as Presidential Assent.
Until it is signed by the President, it cannot become law or it cannot be implemented by the government.
The Finance Act 2017 has generated a lot of debate across the country even before it is sent to State House for the President’s seal of approval.
Sorghum farmers have argued that, if the Finance Act 2017 becomes law, it will kill their businesses.
They have further argued that, the Local Content Policy will be undermined and made redundant if the Finance Act 2017 is signed into law by the President.
Many people have argued that, the Finance Act 2016 is responsible for the near collapse of the country’s fragile economy.
They have further argued that, the Finance Act 2016 was ratified by Parliament in order to create a monopoly for the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited in the sale of their local products.
But, since the Finance Act 2016 became law, in August last year, the NRA (National Revenue Authority) has lost close to Le150Bn (One hundred and fifty Billion Leones) in import or excise duty alone.
The major importers of alcoholic beverages, wine and spirits stopped importing alcoholic beverage products since August 2016 when the Finance Act came into law. NRA figures show that, the Authority did not collect a single cent from import or excise duty on imported alcoholic beverages since August 2016.
But, the imported alcoholic beverages could be seen all over the country in spite of the fact that, NRA is not receiving a single cent from import or excise duty on imported alcoholic beverages.
It is evidently clear from figures produced by NRA that, these imported alcoholic beverages are being smuggled from Guinea and Liberia on a daily basis and with utmost ease.
Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, which is fighting to convince President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma not to sign into law the Finance Act 2017, says that, they have spent Billions of Leones in purchasing state-of-the earth machinery to enhance their production capacity.
Many people have argued that, Sierra Leone Brewery Limited needs to improve on the quality of their products in order to be able to compete in a liberalized economy like ours.
Government needs to collect revenue to run the state. And this can only happen through the payment of taxes. The Government cannot afford to implement policies that will wreck the country’s sick economy.
The Minister of Finance is grossly inefficient in managing the country’s ailing economy. His policies are bad for business and bad for the government.
Only last week, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) prevailed on the government to increase revenue collection. The Finance Act 2017 seeks to do just that. So, why not sign it into law?
With all the state protection that Sierra Leone Brewery Limited enjoys, the company still continues to report loss, year in and year out. In 2015, for instance, the company registered a net loss of Le 50Bn (Fifty Billion Leones).
Sierra Leone Brewery Limited is not expected to pay Corporation Tax for the next ten to fifteen years because the company is being run at a loss.
And most importantly, why does the government want to protect a company that is 97.26% owned by foreign investors? The owners of Sierra Leone Brewery Limited are Heineken (83.15%), Guiness (11.59%), PZ (Paterson Zochonis) 3.02%) and Sierra Leoneans (2.24%).
How can the government protect a foreign owned company against companies that pay huge taxes and employ hundreds of Sierra Leoneans in the supply chain?
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma should sign the Finance Act 2017 in order to maximize income generation by NRA for the government to be able to pay salaries and run social services.