THE NEW TARIFF increase on Domestic Voice call recently announced by the Government of Liberia, including excise taxes imposed on water and other commodities have begun to bite ordinary Liberians, who are usually left with no choice, but to bear the burn of such insensitive action.
ALREADY, ONE OF the leading GSM companies in Liberia, Lone Star Cell MTN as of Sunday, 15 January began alerting customers and subscribers to its three days free call promotion that it has made adjustment in the service, restricting customers to 20 minutes call due to the US$0.01 excise tax imposed by the government.
THE INCREMENT DERIVED from a Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s authorization to the communications regulatory body, Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) to enforce Section 1165 of the Amended Revenue Code recently enacted into law by the Liberian Legislature.
LAWMAKERS LEGISLATED THE increment despite a petition from the group, Association of Telecom Consumers, pleading with them to reject the proposal forwarded by the Executive. The ATC argued in its petition at the time that taxation on calls per minute would directly affect low income earners, who are already struggling to make ends meet amid current unfavorable economic environment exacerbated by 4G depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the U.S. dollar.
THE CURRENT RESTRICTION from Lone Star Cell MTN is no doubt depriving low income earners the opportunity to enjoy the three days free call service to the fullest, particularly citizens across the country who may not have the means to recharge their mobiles with US$5.00. LIKE MANY OTHER social services, communication is one crucial tool that should be made affordable and accessible to the people at all times. But increment of tariff on such social service in effect, means placing it beyond the reach of the majority, particularly citizens in villages and towns all over Liberia.
THIS PAPER HAS also gathered that CELLCOM, another GSM company here is seriously reconsidering its three days call service to the public for US1.00, which has become very popular among Liberians and foreigners alike.
AS IF THIS were not enough, ordinary citizens are similarly grappling with tariff increase on water, which has pushed wholesale price of a sachet of locally produce water from between 60 to 70 Liberian dollars to 120 and 125 Liberian dollars with retail price risks upping to 10LRD per bag.
THE EFFECTS OF these actions have begun to bite with many Lone Star Cell MTN subscribers on Monday, 16 January reportedly storming the corporation’s sub office on Broad Street in Monrovia for allegedly deducting credits from their phones after they recharged, but the corporation, thru its communication office denies.
IT IS BUT time that policymakers both in the Executive and lawmakers on Capitol Hill realize that policies, especially taxes should be tailored for the general good of the people rather than creating discomfort or putting services beyond the reach of less privilege citizens as the current scenario clearly indicates.