Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 November 2019:
The cost of flying to sierra Leone is expected to fall by as much as fifteen percent early next year, if the country’s parliamentarians approve the government’s 2020 Budget statement tabled in parliament last Friday, by finance minister – Jacob Jusu Saffa.
Presenting his budget statement for next year to MPs, the finance minister said “the 2020 Finance Bill, which I will lay for enactment by this Honourable House, proposes several policy measures to increase revenue and at the same time create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive and create employment opportunities.
“These include: ……..All aviation related charges will be exempt from the payment of GST. These include landing and parking fees, aircraft towing, aircraft cleaning, baggage handling, aircraft security as well as aircraft fuelling.
“The objective is to reduce the cost of travel to Sierra Leone in order to boost tourism and create job opportunities.”
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) exemption on all aviation related charges is expected to take effect in 2020, after the enactment of the 2020 Finance Bill.
Sierra Leone is one of the most expensive countries to fly to in the region. Whereas cost of a direct return flight ticket from London to Banjul in just under seven hours could cost as little as £350, passengers will pay almost twice that to get to Freetown from London – indirect, which could take over fourteen hours.
The high cost of airline tickets to Freetown and the discomfort of not having direct flights from London, is seriously affecting the country’s tourism industry.
Speaking about the proposed lifting of aviation related taxes by the government, the Director General of the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) – Mr Moses Tiffa Baio, said that this decision demonstrates government’s strong political will to develop the aviation industry in Sierra Leone, boost the country’s tourism industry and promote economic growth.
“The elimination of GST on all aviation related charges at the Freetown International Airport opens the door to multiple opportunities of which the reduction of airline ticket prices in Sierra Leone is the key.
“Before now, airport charges and taxes levied on airline operations had direct impact on ticket cost which resulted to increase in air tickets. The tax exemption will reduce cost of operations for the airlines and thus foster industry growth and contribute to the promotion of Air transport and tourism in Sierra Leone,” Baio said.
He said that effort to build a safe, secure, sound and economically viable aviation system in Sierra Leone has been one of the top priorities of the Bio-led New Direction government.
Before the move to eliminate GST on aviation related charges, the government had reduced all airport taxes levied on airline tickets.
The government believes that, with these tax reductions backed up by the plan implementation of Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) by International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Government of Sierra Leone, it is expected that air ticket prices will be reduced considerably in 2020 and beyond.