Many Oppose LTA New Tax…House Wants It Halted

Since the Liberia telecommunications authority (LTA) announced its new tariff for incoming and outgoing calls for overseas, there has been much opposition in the public about this as it is seen as something that would affect common consumers.

Already, members of the House of Representatives last week resolved to order as halt to such a new tax on the cell phone users.

The LTA recently, announced an additional 14 cents to incoming international calls, but many persons who spoke to this paper believe that such an added tax would have a severe and significant impact on consumers

A group known as Concerned Youth For Growth and Development, which opposes this new tax contended that it is already expensive for people to call from abroad to Liberia and to add another tax would be an additional burden for the Liberian people

The young people pointed out that what is more devastating, while even more devastating is the additional five cents they are imposing on all international calls out of Liberia.

The group noted further that the new tariff on outgoing calls from Liberia to the United States have two effects, both of which are challenging. They stated that if this should be effected, then GSM companies would be forced to add 5 cents per minute to the amount currently being charged for calls from Liberia to the United States.

The group said that these companies would no longer be able to offer low or flat rate calls to the United States from Liberia. It said that a key point to note is that this cost is not on the GSM companies but on average Liberians.

The group disagreed with the argument of the LTA that this will not affect the average Liberian because they claimed that most outgoing international calls are done by businesses and large international organizations that have the resources to afford the price hike.

The group said this cannot be the case as a bulk of international calls are made by average Liberian’s keeping in touch with family members oversees.

“The action by the LTA goes against the very fundamentals of the act that brought it into existence. The LTA states as its objective “The LTA is the statutory regulatory body established to foster the provision of accessible and affordable ICT based telecommunications for all Liberian’s,” the group said.

It went on:” By levying such additional and unnecessary surcharge on all outgoing calls means that the LTA is facilitating a significant and unaffordable hike in the cost of telecommunications. GSM companies are already heavily taxed. GSM companies pay taxes to government, hefty licensing fees to the LTA, as well as GST on sales generating millions of dollars in revenues for the government and the LTA as is.

Also, in the wake of the latest US$5 cents increase added on phone calls by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, LTA; the House of Representatives had resolved to order a halt on the decision.

Arriving at the decision on Thursday, September 10, 2015, the House of Representatives voted to mandate their committees on Post and Telecommunications as well as Ways, Means and Finance to investigate the LTA with respect to the underlining cause of the increase.

The joint committee is tasked with the responsibility to investigate whether the increase was not in conflict with the lawmakers’ duty as the sole authority to levy taxes.

The House plenary took the decision after Representative G. WessehBlamo tabled a communication before the body, flagging the issue he termed as an unnecessary attempt to increase the present economic hardship in the country.

According to Representative Blamo, the LTA’s decision to inflate the new US$5 cents increase was not taken in accordance with law because their approval as the sole authority on the levying of taxes was not sought.

He recalled that the LTA’s decision to have imposed the US$14 cents tariff on phone calls in 2012 was reached with the consent of the august body, wondering why this time, the legislature could not be consulted in arriving at the latest fees on outgoing calls.

His call was overwhelmingly supported by his colleagues, including Representatives Henry Fahnbulleh, Samuel Koga, Gabriel Smith and others who wanted to know how the LTA intends to monitor the fees it intends to generate from the new tariff in terms of the amount to be actualized.

Representative Smith however cautioned his colleagues not to be too hasty in concluding the wrong doing on the part of the LTA since increase in revenue collection was being done at other government entities as the country is in dire need of revenue.

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