Tax for Development Conference Opens in Freetown

Tax for Development Conference Opens in Freetown

By Mohamed Konneh

The Budget Advocacy Network in collaboration with the International Centre for Tax Development (ICTD) on Wednesday 7th December opens Sierra Leone Tax for Development conference in Freetown. The conference is the first international tax conference held in the country bringing tax experts, government officials, civil society and the media. The conference took place at the prestigious Radisson Blu Hotel, in Aberdeen.

Giving the keynote address and declaring the conference open, Dr. Yakama Manty Jones said ‘our country like the rest of the world has been experiencing multiple crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the intensifying threats from climate change.

Dr. Jones said these crises have created uncertainty, disrupted supply chains and exacerbated shortages of essential commodities, causing sharp increases in the prices of food, fuel and fertilizer.

She said the IMF has projected that global growth will slow from 6 percent in 2021 to 2.7 percent in 2023 while noting inflation continues to rise.

‘These developments have caused real hardship for Sierra Leoneans, affecting their livelihood and food security. The poor and vulnerable who want up the majority of our society, have been disproportionate impacted, and must be protected. That is why the theme for our proposed budget for 2023 is addressing the needs of the vulnerable in the context of multiple crises,’ she said.

The Manty-Jones noted that they at the ministry know that mobilizing tax revenue is critical in helping the situation, although government still benefit from aid.

She said over 60 percent of Sierra Leone total revenue comes from taxes and that resources enable the country to invest in education, health, build roads, and infrastructure to improve the supply of clean water and energy, support and local food production, pursue adaptation measures in response to climate change risks and expand social safety nets to protect most vulnerable.

‘We have already implemented fiscal measures to mitigate the impacts of the economic situation. We have maintained the zero-import duty and good and services tax on imported rice, deferred taxes on the importation of essential commodities and cut taxes in half on essential commodities such as cement and iron rods, she said.’       

The Chairman of the occasion, Abu Brima, Executive Director, Network Movement for Justice and Development and Executive Chair of BAN speaking earlier said for next two days the conference is going to look at taxation, and that it is hoping that these debates will to inform the discuss and try to understand whether taxation is the best option for revenue.

Mr. Brima noted that government continue to forgone a lot of taxes in the mining sector, a situation he described that is not good for the country. 

The Executive Director of Actionaid Sierra Leone, Foday Bassie Swaray said taxation is something his organization continue to talk about over the years, while they continue to put forward information on the subject matter.

Mr. Bassie Swaray noted that tax Justice should be a social concern and that they believe in taxation but it should be progressive and distributed equitably.

‘Taxation is therefore should be at the center of development and we have a strong interest in progressive taxation and we want to see a situation that those who earn more pay more and these moneys are used to provide health care services for the poor, water supply is available, including essential commodities,’ he said.

Mr. Bassie Swaray said over the years together with the Budget Advocacy Network have made several recommendations to government regarding taxation.

‘We hope this conversation will not stop here as we the debate and engaging government, the Actionaid Executive Director said.’

The Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority, Dr. Samuel Jibao in his statement said this is very first tax conference been held in the country and that taxation is key for development purposes. 

He said the NRA relationship with ICTD dated back in 2019 and that he was pleased to be part of the conference because the documents been presented are research materials.

‘Revenue mobilization is critical and that most people now believe that the best way to run a nation is through revenue mobilization domestically. With the shocks and donor funding dropping domestics revenue is the only thing that is helping,’ he said.

Dr. Jibao noted that government continue to reduce tax rates while widening the tax based. 

He said Government continue to reduce tax rate but despite this NRA continue to collect taxes while hitting it target.

Dr. Jibao noted that a number of research papers will be presented and this will generate a number of discussion and inform the sector.

‘The Ukraine Russia War has affected revenue generation and as of September this year we should have collected 5.3 trillion but we were only able to collect 5.1 a drop of three hundred million. For the past years we have embarked on series of reforms and if we want to be efficient, we cannot continue to collect taxes manually,’ he said.

This is the more reason Dr. Jabao said they have introduced the integrated tax administration System or ITAS. 

With the ITAS big business are now paying more except for business ratified by Parliament that we do not have control over. 

The International tax conference continues today.

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