The government finally caved in, backing down in the escalating tax hike disaster at the Free Port with members of the Liberia Custom Brokers Association.
The organization represents thousands of small and middle level Liberian entrepreneurs and importers struggling to eke out a living by importing cheap but needed commodities from places like Nigeria, Ghana and particularly China.
The government in its press release yesterday said that it would be relaxing its tax hike only for the Christmas holiday seasons.
The release, in part said, “The Government of Liberia through its Inter-agency Trade Facilitation Committee has with immediate effect relaxed its new detailed custom clearing procedures at the Free Port of Monrovia for importers until after the Christmas season.”
The release went on to say, “The committee, comprising the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), and the National Port Authority (NPA) took the decision to find an amicable solution to protesting importers especially members of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs).”
We like to applaud the government’s second thoughts, especially during these festive times, thus finally backing down from its previous arbitrary tax hike.
However, we strongly believe and we insist that the government’s move does not go far enough.
It is our belief that the government pronouncement does not go far enough to quell the misgivings and fears of the very people struggling to maintain sanity in the economy.
We further maintain that the Liberian importers are simply reacting to what they feel is unjust taxation on the part of government, similar to the situation that forced the freed slaves to settle into what is known today as Liberia. The freed slaves felt oppressed and couldn’t understand why they had to pay taxes to a government in the United States of America when they could not vote as citizens of that country.
The importers today feel similarly oppressed and buffeted by the hiked tariffs on imported goods when they cannot feel the tangible dividends of taxation.
While we understand the urgency of increased taxation as a means to support government’s development initiatives, in this stringent era of galloping inflation and post-conflict economic contractions, it is only prudent that government designs other policies that will boost the national budget while being considerate of the suffering masses.
In as much as officials from the three branches of government continue to enjoy undue privileges while those whom they represent are wallowing in squalor, people will balk at any policy that further tends to perpetuate their poverty level.