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Sierra Leone News: Salone is ready for a common tariff across West Africa

VICHECLERepresentatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) presented information about a planned Common External Tariff (CET) at a press conference at Santano House in Freetown.
The CET was adopted by heads of state in the 15 member economic organization in January 2006 with the aim of forging a common market in West Africa.
Abu Bakarr Kamara, Assistant Communication Operator for the Customs Service Department of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), noted that different countries in the region currently have differing tariff structures. The CET is designed to impose a common tariff structure between the members of ECOWAS. This would create a level playing field, Kamara said, and would benefit those countries with a lower tariff structure.
Kamara also noted that the CET would discourage cross-border smuggling. “At the end of the day there will be no incentive for an importer to import goods into Guinea and then smuggle it into Sierra Leone,” he said.
The ECOWAS CET designates tariff percentages for imported goods based on the type of good. Essential social commodities would not be taxed at all; raw materials, capital goods and other essential commodities would be taxed 5 percent; intermediate products would be taxed 10 percent; consumer goods would be taxed 20 percent; and goods specific to economic development would be taxed 35 percent. These rates would apply to all ECOWAS member states. This process, of ECOWAS members reducing tariffs for other member states, is one of five stages of regional integration, said Yassin Jalloh-Jamboria, Manager of Assessment and Valuation for the NRA.
The goal of ECOWAS is ultimately further economic and political integration. This involves free movement of people and goods, free trade area, trade liberalization and the abolishing of customs and tariffs. This might eventually lead to the establishment of a central bank, similar to the European Union, said Samuel Johnson of the NRA. “We might have a common west African bank at the end of the day,” he said.
ECOWAS’s aim of economic integration could allow people to easily move between member states for work. “Citizens of Sierra Leone will be free to work in any of these West African states without asking for a work permit,” said Abu Bakarr Conteh, Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
In response to a question about foreign investment, Jalloh-Jamboria said this is a desirable goal, but because of the multitude of laws and regulations in West Africa’s, it can be difficult to attract investors to the region.
“We want foreign direct investment  we want people with money out there, with technology out there, with know-how out there to be attracted to Sierra Leone, invest in Sierra Leone,” Jalloh-Jamboria said.
“There are a lot of investment possibilities in this whole region, but we cannot attract investors because of varying policies.” For example, he said, “If the law in Sierra Leone is not investment friendly, it affects the region.”
Another result of the ECOWAS CET is that consumers would have access to better quality products, said Jalloh-Jamboria. And furthermore, the economic integration would lead to a more unified West Africa. “Nations are better when they come together than when they stay apart,” he said.
Thursday July 14, 2016

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