By Amin Kef Sesay
It appears as if this Government is bent on fooling the people. This is because ever since President Julius Maada Bio came to power following a very controversial and rejected June 24, 2023 election results, his mission seems to be more bent on telling lies and half-truths than actually laying the bare truth.
Against this background, the Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, has informed Sierra Leoneans that the 5% import duty on rice is not new but is being restored in order to boost local rice production in the country. According to him, the 2024 Finance Act will not only raise revenue for the Government but also protect and promote local rice production in the country.
He stated that this proposal will support the Feed Salone programme by ring-fencing the funds from this tax to support local rice production.
To most social commentators, analysts and political pundits these words simply reflect what is called “intelligent nonsense.”
Whilst appearing to sound intelligent, when properly dissected and analyzed it makes no sense at all. How on earth can we expect 5% import duty on rice to not affect the price of a 25Kg or 50Kg bag of rice in this country? The Government’s argument is that, this 5% import duty on rice is not a new phenomenon but a restoration after it was suspended in 2009 due to economic crisis around the world.
The Government further argues that this 5% import duty on rice will not in any way affect the price of a bag of rice because at the time when there was no import tax on rice, the price of a bag of rice spiraled out of control anyway!
The hard fact is that the Government is either not telling us the whole truth, or is hiding something up its sleeve. The harsh reality is that, there is no way this Government can convincingly convince a starving, broke and disillusioned nation like ours, not to fret over this 5% import duty on rice because all is not well as even the least man knows that whatever tax is imposed on rice or on any other essential commodity,definitely results in more suffering and more pain for the ordinary masses.
The whole scenario smacks of hypocrisy and high-handedness on the part of the government. It seems to many people as if this particular Government is taking citizens of this country for granted without thinking about the repercussion a hungry and angry man can cause!
We say this with caution because if things continue going on in this fashion, then we are afraid!