Following ‘Tax Protest,’ Calm Returns to Redlight

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Following several hours of intense standstill of basic activities on Tuesday in the Paynesville Redlight commercial district, in the eastern-suburb of Monrovia where stores and other petty trading centers were shut down, calm yesterday returned to the area.

 Restoration of commercial activities to Redlight and its affected adjacent communities yesterday came as result of a reported intervention by ‘some prominent residents’ from the private sector who have trade links with the Paynesville branch of the Liberia Marketing Association.

 Our reporter who visited the Redlight commercial hub yesterday observed normal business transactions with goods and services being at the center of their busy activities.

 Though commercial activities have resumed with stores and shops reopened, Habbib Jallo, a cosmetic trader, is one businessman who is of the opinion that they (traders) would return to the closure action should the PCC not see reason to reduce some of their taxes.

Mrs. Kebbah Flomo, a fishmonger in the main market hall at Redlight, like many other marketers, complained of how the Tuesday closure of businesses, including the cold storage affected her sales to the extent that she did not achieve her financial potential for the day.

  Tuesday’s protest action, which resulted in the abrupt closure of businesses in the area, came about when several individuals under the banner of the Paynesville Business Association Incorporated (PABA) earlier accused the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) of arbitrarily hiking taxes in the municipality.

Members of the Association meanwhile besieged the main entrance to the Capitol Building, holding placards demanding reduction to the tariff charged by the PCC authority, among other things.

 According to some of the members, their petition was addressed to Senator George Weah of Montserrado County to intervene and resolve the impasse, but unfortunately for them, Senator Weah is not part of the Senate Committee with requisite knowledge on trade and commerce.

During the protest, PAPA members hoisting various placards, also threatened to keep their businesses closed if the taxes levied by the PCC are not reduced to a considerable flat rate as a standard.

The petitioners further complained that the management of PCC has ignored the fact that there is already a gross economic hardship in the country, and that the Corporation is not the only government agency that was collecting taxes and other fees from businesses in Paynesville Redlight.

“We pay taxes and other fees to the Ministries of Commerce, Finance, and even to the authorities of the Liberia National Fire Service as well as to the many police officers who visit the market tables and the stores on a daily basis,” a PABA member lamented.

They said they are paying high garbage fees, yet the PCC has empowered what it terms Community Based Enterprises (CBE) to collect between LD100 to LD200 from them weekly as fees for the collection of garbage from the market.

“The PCC is in the constant habit of unnecessarily fining businesses without regard to its city ordinances, and even goes as far as closing down those business entities without due process,” the Association led by Sheikh Diallo’s petition read.

The group’s petition also justified their not wanting to pay what they consider high taxes as “majority of these businesses are retailers who sell only in Liberian dollars and these businesses buy and sell locally.”

PABA said the taxes are burdensome and threatened that if their plight is not given timely consideration, they will close their businesses.

Meanwhile it is proposing L$225.00 as yearly taxes to be collected by the City Corporation from businesses.

However, during a local radio talk show earlier, the Communication director at the PCC, Jani Jallah explained among other things, that taxes paid in 2013 still remain the same up to the present and that the tax rate remains the same; therefore to say they will not pay at all is not real.

According to her, there is nothing wrong being carried out by the PCC in terms of tax collection or fees, “because it is a known secret that all businesses have different taxes, and therefore, if a person chooses to remain consistent in the kind of business, he or she is doing; taxes remain the same.”

She said the PCC remains resolute in collecting its taxes and fees as per the business and rate standard.

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