John Baimba Sesay: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 March 2012:
The rebranding effort of the government needs the support of every Sierra Leonean. In our little ways we can contribute to the development of the country.
I am a strong believer in the fact, that despite the challenges we are still faced with, we have, as a country continued to make tremendous progress in a number of areas like the fight against corruption, in terms of our infrastructural development and in terms of the country generating revenue at the local level with the seeming determination of the National Revenue Authority.
We need not deny the fact that in an attempt to foster a nation’s development, there must come into play challenging factors, which may stand in the way of any development effort.
Sierra Leone’s development could be discussed from the perspective of the readiness on the part of her people to get things done in the right way.
Sierra Leone is an investment friendly nation. The enabling environment has been created by government to ensure, investors are protected. The country is among the most business friendly countries around the world at present.
This is an encouraging development for a country that is making progress from the socio-economic and political fronts. The environment has been created wherein; investors could feel free and safe to take their investments into the country.
A leading agency in the area of encouraging investment into the country is the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), which has created the platform for direct foreign and domestic investment in Sierra Leone.
SLIEPA is responsible for the promotion, co-ordination and generation of foreign and domestic investment.
The Investment Promotion Act of 2004, primarily promotes and attracts private investments – both domestic and foreign, for the development of production and value adding activities, as well as to improve exports and create employment opportunities.
Sierra Leone is determined to develop and the government has been making every effort to meet the development needs of its citizens.
The Investment Promotion Act of 2004 provides a number of investment incentives, as a way of attracting investments into the country. Investment incentives such as capacity building support, foreign exchange remittance, remittance of profit, guarantee of capital repatriation and of loan remittance and guarantee against expropriation – are protecting both domestic and foreign investments.
The country’s progress over the years is also felt in its tax administration and the creation of better and efficient tax system. The introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data is a plus to the country’s tax environment.
ASYCUDA is a computer software package that is used by Customs Administrations in many countries, in processing documents on export and importation of goods.
There are a lot of advantages attached to the system. It ensures fast clearance of goods; it accounts for revenue collected; it helps in the compilation of trade statistics; it makes trade more reliable, transparent and efficient – having an audit trail that will help in increasing the confidence of taxpayers in the systems of customs operations.
The system is a major component that has helped in migrating customs operations from the then manual system – with a large number of tedious steps, to an automated system, which has today got rid of the bureaucracies that used to exist. This does not suggest there are no challenges.
Another area of progress in the country’s tax environment is the merger, which has taken place, in bringing the Income Tax and the GST under one body – the Domestic Taxes Department.
The introduction of the DTD takes into account components in the NRA’s Modernization Plan, which generally aims at increasing effectiveness and accountability in the nation’s revenue collection agency. The DTD – Tax Experts say, will significantly improve on the delivery of services to taxpayers and stakeholders.
Fighting corruption and the provision of electricity
President Koroma’s government has taken the fight against corruption as core, in the Agenda for Change. The institution responsible for fighting corruption has been given more powers – prosecutorial powers.
High profile cases of corruption have been prosecuted and won by the ACC with government not interfering in the operation of the institution. ACC’s Commissioner, Joseph Kamara, in an interview with Torchlight newspaper, (October 2011) explained that there has been a decrease in the level of corruption in the country.
A nation’s growth will be made possible when there is constant provision of electricity. An emerging economy like China has been doing well today because of how the country has given premium on the aspect of energy provision.
China today has enhanced scientific and technological innovation capacities because of the continuous provision of energy for its citizens. When there is electricity, investors are sure of coming to invest.
When there are more investment opportunities in a country, the problem of unemployment is sure of being tackled, as more jobs will be created.
President Koroma and his government have been working towards addressing challenges of youth unemployment through the formation of a ministry responsible for youths and the creation of a National Youth Commission.
Sierra Leone has taken the path of meeting the needs of her people in the area of energy provision. The Bumbuna hydro project is now providing electricity for a number of Sierra Leoneans.
With some of these achievements, we now have more reasons than ever, to talk to investors, both domestic and foreign to go into Sierra Leone and explore the potential of the country.