25TH October 2016
*_NATIVE CONSORTIUM AND RESEARCH CENTRE/ NATIVE THINK TANK (NCRC/NTT) SAYS NO TO REMOVAL OF PHANTOM FUEL SUBSIDY_*
Our attention has been drawn to recent moves by the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) to increase the price of fuel in the name of removal of a non-existent fuel subsidy.
We have information that the Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Bangura and his team have been travelling around parts of the country in an apparent bid to justify the removal of the so-called subsidy on fuel and was heard on the news telling the people of Port Loko that Government is losing Le 86 billion to Le 200 Billion on fuel subsidy. This is totally untrue because there is no fuel subsidy in our budget.
As a pro-poor movement, we want to let it be known to every Sierra Leonean that this is a very dishonest move by the GoSL, wickedly calculated to subject the poor people of this country to further suffering, as any increase in the price of fuel now will affect the least man in the village because of the ripple effect it would have on the prices of goods and services.
We want the general populace to know that since the IMF advised the Government to remove the fuel subsidy in 2011, there has been no provision for any subsidy in our national budget since 2012. Therefore, we believe that for the GoSL to talk about fuel subsidy now when they cannot produce any evidence of such subsidy in our national budget is unfair and tantamount to cheating the poor people by the backdoor.
You would recall that in April 2011, just after we had celebrated our 50th Independence anniversary, Sierra Leoneans woke up to a fuel price hike. The price of fuel was increased from Le 17,500 per gallon to Le 20,430 per gallon (20,500= Le 4,500 * 4.54 Litres). In effect, the fuel price hiked by 16.74%. In January 2015 when the price of crude in the world market plummeted to as low as $ 80 per barrel, and after we strongly advocated on the media for the pump price of fuel to be reduced, our Government reluctantly reduced prices from Le 4,500 to Le 3,750, though the decrease in pump price was not commensurate to the decrease in the world market. Also, that reduction never translated into reduced transport costs for commuters (pole-to-pole).
Between December 2015 and March 2016, the price of crude on the global market further plummeted from $ 80 to as low as $ 26 per barrel. Meaning the price of crude further dropped exponentially by 300%. We believed that the 300% fall should have reflected in the pump price locally but it did not. Our think tank along with other Civil Society Actors mounted peaceful protests in the courtyard of Parliament, on the streets of Freetown and even in the Northern Regional head quarter town of Makeni but our President and his Government did not listen to our protest.
We want the people of Sierra Leone to know that as we write this press release, the price of crude in the World market is below $ 50 Dollars US per barrel.
We want to remind the GoSL that there is endemic poverty among the populace and any increase in the pump price of fuel now would add to the suffering of the masses. As a Civil Society public interest Watch Dog, we want to make it known to the Government and members of the public behind this move that it is not pro-poor and has no basis. We think this move is dangerous and untenable.
We also believe that for the GoSL to use the smuggling of fuel from Sierra Leone to neighbouring countries as an excuse to hike the pump price of fuel, after they have woefully failed to properly police the borders of this country, is unpatriotic and dishonest. As an organisation, we had given the GoSL several warnings about the spate of fuel smuggling through the border town of Kambia over the years but nobody listened to us.
If the Government is broke due to its own economic failure by design and they have been forced by the IMF to introduce austerity measures, should the poor people suffer for this?
We say no to this move and are kindly asking the GoSL to do their homework properly and stop deceiving the poor people of this Country about a subsidy that in principle stopped existing in our national budget since 2012. If road users have been paying a “Road User tax” and “Excise Duty” per every litre of fuel they purchase, talking about removing a non-existent subsidy now as a ploy to increase the pump price of fuel is unthinkable and inexcusable.
Finally, we were expecting that the Petroleum Unit or Trade Ministry should have been leading this process but since that is not the case, we want to urge Mr. Mohamed Bangura and team to tell the people of Sierra Leone the truth.
The poor people of this country have suffered too much and enough is enough.
*Edmond Abu (Jr)*
*_Executive Director NCRC-NTT 076-617240_*