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Politics News

PATEL appreciates Weah, but raises issues

The Patriotic Entrepreneur of Liberia (PATEL), a Trade Union has appreciated President George Manneh Weah’s initial steps in dropping all penalties on retail imports and waiving storage penalties. But the group also raises concerns that other key constraints still remain unaddressed.

Speaking Friday, 27 April at PATEL Trade Union office down New Port Street in Monrovia, the group Chairman Mr. Dominic Nimely expressed gratitude to President Weah for listening to their concerns and taking initial steps geared towards easing economic hardship here.

According to him, the president has ordered that custom duties be paid hundred percent in Liberian Dollars. But Mr. Nimely says the five days deadline given importers to clear their goods from the Freeport of Monrovia remains a serious concern.

He, however, pleaded with President Weah to make quick intervention for Liberia to use the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) system at the Port and put aside the old Brussels Definition for Evaluation (BVD) which traces prices on internet rather than receipts and invoices submitted from the point of origin.

He complains that Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) boss Elfreda Tamba is still using the Brussels Definition to clear goods at the Port because lawmakers here refused to enact the GATT into law during Mrs. Sirleaf’s regime.

As such, he says customs officers waste goods on the ground to check them one – by – one before billing retail importers, disregarding receipts and invoices from point of origin.

He gives an example that used cars bought probably US$1,500 and shipped at a cost of US$1,500, LRA would turn down company receipt and contact number and would bill the importer US$3,000 for custom duties and tax.

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He claims that barrels sent to families are opened and checked one – by – one, and owners are compelled to pay US$300 to US$700 to clear each of them. “Mr. President, because of this, the economy is dying slowly because everybody is going to Guinea next door to go buy their goods,” he notes.

He wonders why today “Liberia becomes a death trap for its own citizens,” when back in the days other countries came here for commodities. Also speaking, PATEL Vice Chair Mr. Kafuma Dorley says Liberia is the only country in the sub – region here that still uses BVD, arguing that World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries have moved to GATT which requires that commercial invoices be dealt with to bill importers instead of using internet to validate prices of goods.

“But for us in Liberia here, we refuse to adapt the new system. Brussels … that that law was passed, I think 1953, they left that old law ever since. They migrated to new law. Guinea right here doing the same thing, Sierra Leone right here doing the same thing, the new law,” he says.

Mr. Dorley observes that the BVD does not take into consideration sales discount, thus making it to always have problems. He says they have proposed to the Legislature for passage a Small Business Department Act of 2018 which seeks to establish a business arm within the Ministry of Commerce to be presided over by business people who will decide on the policies that run the country with regards to trade.

By Winston W. Parley

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