Before inks got dry on outcome of a government committee meeting held in Ganta, Nimba County, to examine the Liberian business climate towards improving it, national stakeholders in the business sector have issued a stern warning over alleged attempts by Government to impose what they called Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) which the group says has the potential to increase port fees for businesses and traders. It sounds quite paradoxical that the government is contemplating such a new tax policy at a time it is studying the business climate in the hope of reducing hardship on importers and exporters and by extension the ordinary Liberians. As The Analyst reports, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) has alarmed about the CTN which it says will negatively impact trade exacerbate hardship in the country.
While Government was brainstorming and making ambitious and eloquent PowerPoint presentations in Ganta City, Nimba County, figuring out solutions to the intractable business environment and impact on the national economy, Liberian business groups under the banner of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce were studying a new tax policy that could complicate the very business climate for which they were spending time, energy and resources in Ganta.
Following a review of the impact of the new tax policy, which the Liberia Chamber of Commerce described as deliberating to government’s policy to improve the business climate, the group issued a press release in which it called on President George M. Weah and his administration to rescind.
The Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) represent all businesses and Trade Union Organizations in Liberia that the Liberia Business Association (LIBA), PATEL, Fula Business Association (FBA), World Lebanese Culture Union, Indian Association, Customs Brokers Association, etc.
In a press release, the LCC said it was sending out a red flag to the Government and the wider public about what it said was “pending economic hardship if the NPA continues with the planned implementation of the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), which is to be carried out by the Global Maritime Tracking Solution (GTMS).”
The group said the action is not only an additional financial burden to businesses and consumers, but duplicating requirements that are already being complied to by the importers of cargos into the country.
“It also makes shipping to Liberia more expensive for suppliers outside of Liberia,” the LCC said, adding that the Liberia Chamber of Commerce had also pointed out that this new requirement adds no value to export and import in Liberia.
The group said the essence was only to allow one company make money from importers and exporters’ own information generated during their purchases and sales internationally.
“Up until now,” said the LCC, “there is no clear indication on how much the fees per container is likely to be, as GTMS, in its own presentation at the LCC indicated it would charge up to 120 Euros per container, whilst suppliers have stated that they are being charged up to 480 Euros per container.”
The LCC further disclosed that the National Port Authority (NPA) was planning to start this process by February this year, ignoring the concerns of Liberian business groups which communicated to the NPA in a letter dated January 25, 2019, addressed to the National Ports Authority.
“Because of this action, the suppliers are currently refusing to ship pending cargos until the issue can be sorted out,” said the LCC. “This means that, the current commodities on the market, when consumed, will create scarcity, since there will be no immediate imports to replace same.”
The Liberian business group said further: “It should also be noted that GTMS as a company, unlike BIVAC, is fully not prepared to take on this new challenge since they do not have representatives around the world. They will simply rely on importers’ own documents to provide the service they proposed to deliver.”
“The online platform that GTMS is keen to introduce cannot guarantee any due diligence in comparison with the existing BIVAC, Commerce and ASSYCUDA systems are offering,” the LCC noted, saying that all of these issues raised by member businesses and groups have pushed the LCC to call for meetings with relevant authorities in trying to better present their dissatisfaction with this new measure which will have a trickled down on the already challenged business climate.
The LCC said at this point and in good faith, it was still calling on the Government to give them audience to have this issue harmonized before it escalates into something else that could create hard feelings between and amongst stakeholders of the economy.