Varney M. Kamara, Contributing writer |
The Management of the National Port Authority (NPA) has disclosed that more than US$10 million (Ten Million United States Dollars) due the government of Liberian in port revenue would be collected in the next four months.
The acting Managing Director of the NPA, Celia Cuffey Brown, made the disclosure in Monrovia Thursday, 31 May 2018, at a one day stakeholders’ conference aimed at resolving sticky issues undermining the country’s business climate.
“I want to let you that the only way can change this country is for us to work together as stakeholders. Right now, the NPA, in the next four months, when we are finished, will be collecting between US7M(Seven Million United States Dollars) and US$10M(Ten Million United States Dollars) that is hidden out there,” Madam Brown told participant at the top business gathering.
Asked what led to the accumulation of the staggering unrecorded port revenue, MD Brown also replied: “If you have not regulating what should be regulated, this is the result of that. For years, the people owe the NPA out there. They owe the port in Toil (Drudgery fees) and they have not paid this money.”
She particularly singled out the Port of Buchanan as one of several port facilities where due diligence was not applied that could allow the government to collect its needed revenue.
“In all of the hidden money, we may be between US$7million to US$10million. And, as we collect those monies, we’ll be able to improve our port system,” the Acting NPA boss emphasized.
She also gave a vivid picture of problems affecting importers and the country’s business climate as a whole, noting, “This has to do with unscrupulous business people. If all of us put together, we can change things for the better.”
“For Liberia to work, we all have to remove our egos in order to make things better for this country,” she further. The Acting NPA boss also indicated that the continued inflow of goods into the country would create easy access for the citizenry to get commodities at a cheaper rate and this, she pointed out, “Will help to better the lives of our people because, this government is a government of the poor people, and that’s we say that our development platform is tailored in a way that will improve the lives of ordinary Liberians.”
Madam Brown’s statement came in the wake of mounting calls by Liberian business community for the government to lower its current high tariff on goods imported into the country, a situation which continues to cause heightened inflation and skyrocketing price rice, petroleum, and other basic essential commodities. Despite President George Weah’s recent pronouncement for the decreasing in the price of basic commodities on the Liberian market, importers have cried foul on the basis that they continue to pay a high price for goods imported into Liberia, and the President’s call has largely remain less effective as far as the dropping of the price of goods on the market is concerned.
At Thursday’s meeting, participants called on the government of Liberia to reduce the high cost of tariff on their goods imported into the country, and also requested the APM Terminals to stop charging for storage fees for holidays and non-working days, including asking the coming to extend the storage clearing days to seven working days.
The stakeholders, who included BIVAC (Bureau Veritas, Inspections, Verifications, Assessment, and Control) to reinstate its modern scanning system at the Freeport of Monrovia as a way of improving the timing of inspection and avoiding work overload.
“It’s time to put our feet down,” MD Brown also suggested. Adding, “It’s time for us to put aside all the unnecessary bureaucracies that have caused us to be at this point because the faster we speed up things the better it would be for us as a country.”
MD Brown also said that “there’s nothing wrong with asking the APM Terminals to extend the storage clearing to 7 working days because this government is here to satisfy the people of Liberia. As business group, we are aware of your interest, but we need to find a common point where we can derive a compromise that server your business interest and at the same time don’t affect our people in ways that will bring hardship to them. You can still make money if you extend the storage clearing days to seven working days.”