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GSM users to protest tariff

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Liberia’s Global System for Mobile Communications or GSM users have planned a week-long protest on the grounds of the Capitol Building agaisnt a recent passage of additional US$0.01 tax on voice calls per minute by the House of Representatives, awaiting concurrence from the Liberian Senate.

According to a statement issued in Monrovia on Tuesday, 3 January the National Association of Telecommunication Consumers or NATELCO says it is disappointed and frustrated over the House’s decision, which is in total disregard to a petition previously presented to that august body by over two million consumers, opposing such legislation.

NATELCO says as a civil society organization that represents the interest of all tele-consumers throughout the country, it has a responsibility to ensure understanding among consumers, service providers, government ministries and regulatory authority; and to campaign actively for the enactment of law, enunciation of policies and establishment of institutions and mechanism for the protection and empowerment of consumers and other consumer groups.

“As such, we believe the imposition of additional tax on telecommunications will result in an increase in prices for consumers, which will have adverse impacts on the adoption of mobile services and industry investment as well as counter-productive to the longer term national digital strategy objectives set by the Government of Liberia,” the statement said.

It pointed out that the taxation on calls minute hits lower income consumers, who are already struggling due to the adverse economic situation, and increased price pressure on consumers thereby, making access to information and communication technology not affordable.

“Moreover, this will result in a double taxation for consumers who are already paying 15% GST on the sale cost of scratch cards,” the statement added. The group maintains that the proposed tax increment have a serious effect on the lives of the over 2.5 million subscribers, majority of whom cannot afford to buy a $1.00 recharge card and depend on the 3-day free calls promotional service to keep in touch with friends, families and loved ones.

The economy of Liberia is not in the growth “mode” at this time as we approach national elections and this means there will continue to be shortage of jobs, money and disposable income for subscribers to pay this new increase in tariffs as a tax. The Telecom Sector here is the only sector that continues to perform and generate reliable revenue for government when compared to Agriculture (Price of Rubber is Low), Mining (Arcelor Mittal has Cut Jobs – No Iron Ore Exports), and the list goes on.

“We are therefore calling upon the Government of Liberia through the House of Senate, to prevent the adoption of the additional 1 cent tax on voice calls. This is the call to which they were elected; to represent the interest of their people. As such, it is incumbent upon all Lawmakers to ensure the enactment of legislation that will improve the lives of the masses and not one that will impose hardship and suffering on the people”.

The statement said with the short and long term effects of Ebola factored into this equation, the economic outlook of Liberia remains bleak, and such new tax will “Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs” which will lead to more “economic contraction” across the country with untold hardship on the already suffering masses.Press release

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