Alcoholic drinks imported into Sierra Leone are being taxed at a higher rate, thanks to the Finance Act of 2016. According to Alpha Tanue Jalloh, President of the Sierra Leone Importers Association, while alcoholic beverages were taxed by 30 percent in 2014 and 2015, the new Finance Act levies taxes on imported drinks by the liter, which means taxes are higher on these products.
The Sierra Leone Importers Association is calling for the tax increase to be suspended, Jalloh said, because it’s too much of a burden for businesses when combined with all the other import taxes they must pay.
“We don’t see the rationale behind the particular increase,” Jalloh said. “It doesn’t make sense to anybody.”
Before the new tax increase, he said, local beers tended to be expensive compared to imported ones, even though the imported brands were subject to a gauntlet of various import taxes. And, Jalloh noted, the manufacturing process is essentially the same for all beers. Why do domestic beers continue to be more expensive?
“The government should now focus their attention as to why this is happening, not to do this unreasonable increase,” he said. “If we want this country to grow we should compete regionally, we should compete internationally, we should look for a space in all spheres, in all sectors.”
Jalloh said he worried a tax increase on imported rice or some other product could be next.
The tax increase and resulting spike in the prices of imported beers is also deeply unpopular, Jalloh noted, and the laws should be modeled off what the people want.
“The best way if we want to lift this country from poverty is to review all our tax policies,” he said.
Francis Kai Kai, manager of D’s Bazaar, a restaurant and bar on Siaka Stevens street, said the rise in prices for imported beer is hurting business at his establishment.
“The new law on imported alcoholic drinks is affecting us very greatly because it makes us lose customers when it comes to those imported alcoholic drinks.”
Brands like Becks, Savannah, Sherwood and Budweiser have greatly increased in price, Kai Kai said. D’s Bazaar used to sell Budweiser for 10,000 Leones but it now sells it for 15,000 Leones.
Meanwhile, local drinks come cheaper at around 6,000 Leones, but customers don’t want to buy them due to alleged inconsistency in taste and alcohol content. “I want the local product to do well in the markets,” Kai Kai said, “but we must have consistency in production.”