President Bio to slap high taxes on rice – Sierra Leone’s staple food and other essential items

Dr. Doma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 November 2023:

The government of Sierra Leone has run out of cash and the stomachs of every Sierra Leonean is about to feel the pinch, as the country’s economy continues to falter.

The government’s proposed Finance Bill 2024 reads like a recipe for financial turbulence, with huge taxes on rice, petroleum products, cement, and iron rods on the horizon.

The economy it seems is being steered into stormy waters by those who should be guiding it safely towards the ‘New Direction,’ prosperity, and the much-talked-about Feed Salone agenda.

Rice, the staple food of the entire nation is for the first time in the country’s history, now under the taxing gaze of the government to raise much needed revenue for spending on essential public services.

In a country where more than half the population struggle to put food on the table, this move seems as sensible as dancing in a thunderstorm.

Chief Minister Dr. David Sengeh might soon advise us to savour each grain of rice we eat, as he recently suggested on his Facebook page for citizens to use their mobile data wisely.

The Finance Bill 2024 paints a vivid picture of tough choices ahead for an already impoverished citizen, instead of the government cutting back on its extravagant spending on overseas travel, spending on luxurious V8 Toyota Land-cruisers, free fuel allocations for public officials, and unnecessary political appointments that have caused a bloated public sector wage bill.

In this financial storm that will soon hit Sierra Leone, President Bio is at a crossroads: protect the privileges of the political elite or alleviate the tax misery on the poor.

Sadly, President Bio has chosen to tax the stomachs of those who can least afford it. Poverty stricken Sierra Leone is now teetering on an economic cliff edge, as the people pray for salvation from above.

The 2024 Finance Bill unveils a tale of government indifference, where tax hikes rain down indiscriminately on a population that is already grappling with daily economic and social challenges.

As the President looks up to the people to bail the government from the financial mess it created for itself after five years in power, many in Sierra Leone are instead looking to the President to plug the financial loopholes – as promised in 2018, reduce per diem, and combat corruption, instead of squeezing the stomachs of the poor.

Sierra Leoneans, left to weather this fiscal storm, are in dire need of a silver lining.

Perhaps in the humour of hardship, we can find solidarity in collectively navigating these choppy economic waters. God/Allah save us all as we strive to make sense of a Finance Bill that seems to tax our patience as much as our stomachs.

All this, in the context of poor monetary policy, with no credible plan to take the old Leone out of circulation and reverse its depreciation against other currencies, combined with very high interest rates for businesses, which is deepening the  economic crisis the government now finds itself.



  1. “Death and taxes are certain”. Even the USA is a superpower because of Federal, State, corporate and sales taxes. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for our bailout program since 2018 categorically stated that the government SHOULD remove subsidies from Rice and Fuel and other commodities. For the past FIVE years our country has been trying hard to fulfill that commitment.
    The current government inherited Austerity and now they are responsible for the debt because governance is continuity. Unfortunately, the Pandemic, the Russia/ Ukraine and now the Middle East Wars have made the situation worst. Let’s hope and pray that the current government will start saving for rainy days when the economy turns around with the “Feed Salone” flagship program headed by Honorable Dr. Kandeh Yumkella within the new 5 years mandate.

  2. Bob Masallay, the Malawian President, Chakwera, knows a thing or two about monetary and fiscal policy, Bio and his team cannot even do simple Arithmetic, the kind that we are taught in kindergarten. To top it all the Malawian President has abundant common sense – Bio doesn’t.

  3. In a steady, predominantly self-reliant economy, taxation could be used to slow down the economy overall to prevent it from overheating. However, a sane government usually does this through an increase in income tax, not in basic commodities, especially staples; riots have been known to break out in some parts of the world over this issue.

    With other things being equal, the immediate effect of an increase in income tax is a reduction in individual spending, which in turn curbs inflationary pressure. Once this is achieved the government could once more lower income tax or use other means to return its increased revenue to the nation, perhaps through issuing personal cheques to households or individuals. We have seen this happen in stronger economies.

    But the Sierra Leone economy is very weak, it is donor driven for the most part, and Bio has made it worse, not only through extremely wrong policies, but by offending nations and institutions which help us to barely survive because of his insatiable love of power. The man behaves like an illiterate who cannot do basic arithmetic – he has an unwieldy cabinet, countless advisers and a passion for travel, using hired jets in search of phantom investors. Ordinary people have to pay for all of it. And we should not complain about it either or else we shall find ourselves in an early grave somewhere. Bio has become the black version of Joseph Stalin who killed thousands of his own people while leading what was then the Soviet Union just to hold on to power; he became suspicious and afraid of even his own shadow; when he died many people made a little holiday in their hearts.

    The raising of taxes on basic commodities by Bio can only mean one thing: his government is strapped for cash since the donor well of funds has dried up. Even China may be wary of doing business with him at a remarkable level; the possibility of him being indicted by ICC is not lost to them either.

    Bio knows the way out of his predicament, but he is too scared to take it : inform all relevant world bodies and Western Powers of his willingness to either rerun the general elections or call for early elections. But then only a patriot can do such a thing to save his country from total collapse. I don’t know how patriotic Maada is.

  4. APC were bad; PAOPA-SLPP are worse! We are nationally continuing in dire socio-politico-economic straits diseased with a government more adept in and about siphoning statutorily allocated national funds etc. into their private pockets – sychophants included. Democracy has dealt us a bad hand. Ideas about getting us out of this quagmire from diasporans are more welcome because residents will either be persecuted or killed. Seton During

  5. What could be more callous and insensitive to our already suffering people ? To impose taxes on rice, our staple food, fuel and iron rods ? At a time like this when prices of food and other basic commodities are already out of control?

    The SLPP government is fully aware of the cascading effects of a very steep rise in the price of fuel,especially .Fuel prices control other market forces. When fuel price increases, it leads to a corresponding increase in the prices of other consumer goods. To impose such a tax on fuel is equivalent to giving hemlock to an already starving man.

    The SLPP Government is cash-starved. President Bio’s stubborn-headedness and impetuosity in stealing the elections have antagonized donor partners against his government and himself and money is not coming in as it used to do. Even the IMF-approved loan of U.S $20 million is meager to handle all the economic and related problems this government has created. Therefore, as at now, the SLPP Government cannot pay salaries and wages on time and public sector workers are starving off cash to feed their families and meet other obligations. The government imposed the recent 2024 Finance Bill and allied taxes to address the shortfalls in revenue.

    However, only a callous government would impose such taxes on basic commodities at the time like this. The SLPP Government could have done it another way, if it was prudent and cared for the people. One of the best ways the government could have done it was by slashing the profligate spending on salaries, emoluments and privileges of its ministers, ambassadors and other privileges. Even with all these challenges in cash flow, Maada Bio keeps appointing people and most of these appointments are redundant, needless and repetitive. The government could have also merged ministries and reduced the number of ministers. Instead of these measures, Bio chose to overburden the people more. Why is it the poor who should always bear the brunt of this government’s economic ineptitude and shambles?

    I have been saying that when I worked on the UN Peacebuilding Sierra Leone Specific Configuration, we engaged the government on all the factors that could cause slippages in peace building and its consolidation and lead the country back to conflict. One of these factors was the insensitivity of the government to the sufferings of the people. The Bio government is not under these constraints like the Ernest Koroma Government . That is why he does what he pleases.

    From the diplomatic point of view, the challenges facing peacebuilding and consolidation in Sierra Leone are corruption, callous insensitivity to the suffering of the people, impunity, improper natural resource management, lack of access to basic social services, youth unemployment, poor fiscal policies, injustice, elections rigging, political intolerance and extremism, inequality, tribalism and regionalism etc. etc. All of these errors, which were also addressed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( TRC) are being repeated with impunity by the Bio SLPP Government, without consideration to the consequences. This is why international stakeholders are so busy at work presently trying to help this president steer away from these mistakes. But Bio is too stubborn-headed and listens only to himself.

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