Chiefs Agree to Reintroduce Controversial Hut Tax

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Group photo at the closed of the conference

Pledge support to Pro-poor agenda

The National Traditional Council of Chiefs, at the close of its conference in Ganta, Nimba County, have signed a resolution to fully support the Weah government’s “Pro-poor Agenda.”

The 15 chiefs, led by the head of the Council, Oldman Zanzar Karwor, and witnessed by women representing the Mano River countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast agreed to an 11-count resolution, pledging their fullest support to the government in achieving its goals.

“The chiefs and traditional leaders accept and are willing to work with, support and promote the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity, which puts the poor people at the center of governance and improves the living conditions of poor people, especially in rural communities,” declared the statement.

The chiefs also commended the Government for the initiatives undertaken toward the sustenance of peace, security and reconciliation through the implementation of the Pro Poor Agenda.

In acknowledging the significance of land reform, decentralization, reconciliation, constitutional reform and good governance as foundations to ensure the success of the Pro-poor Agenda, the chiefs agreed to support the re – introduction of the hut tax  to be paid annually for the development of their counties.

They said the  hut tax will enhance their participation in the promotion of government’s agenda and development initiatives.

The chiefs said in their resolution that the government cannot be dependent forever, “relying on donor supports or begging all around the world for help, so it is good to bring back the collection of hut tax to back up the economy.”

At this point, some chiefs even suggested that a portion of the proposed hut tax collected in their counties should remain there for development, but that suggestion was not part of the resolution they submitted to the government through the Minister of Internal Affairs,  Varney Sirleaf.

The chiefs also agreed to endorse the government’s initiative to introduce a road user toll system for all vehicles plying the roads.

Min Sirleaf (right) receives the resolution from Chief Zanzar Karwor

Juli Endee and Mrs. Setta Fofana Saah, who were also at the signing ceremony, expressed their appreciation for the conference, but said the issues regarding “Hut Tax and Road Toll” require more education and time, before implementing them.

“The Road Toll system is good, but it requires all the road networks to be paved, before placing toll gates because you cannot struggle on the deplorable roads, then they ask you to pay toll fees,” said Setta Fofana Saah.

The chiefs also agreed to promote and uphold gender equity and equality by ensuring women’s participation in decision making processes, striving to reduce the gender imbalance by alleviating early marriage and forced initiation of boys and girls into traditional societies during the school year.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the Carter Center “Access to Justice program with support from USAID and the Government of Sweden, sponsored the conference of chiefs in Ganta to provide them with insight into what the Pro Poor agenda means.

Minister Sirleaf thanked all the chiefs for turning out to give their support to the Pro Poor agenda of the government.

“If the government does not explain what the policy of the government is, we will be leaving our people in doubt and if they are in doubt the people will say things that will take them in a wrong way which will take a long time to change,” he said.

“It is in that light we brought all the chiefs together to talk to them for them to know what the government means, especially when it comes to the “Pro Poor” issue, he said.

It can be recalled that following the military coup of 1980, one of its first acts was the abolition of the Hut Tax. The Hut Tax was widely resented by local people because of the methods of collection associated with its collection which were often brutal and oppressive.

Under True Whig Party rule,  local people were required to pay the Hut Tax but they could not vote nor be voted for because they did not own property in fee simple. According to the coup makers, such practice was tantamount to payment of tax without representation and the brutal methods employed to collect the tax were unjustifiable.

According to a political observer who witnessed the event this week, the call by the chiefs for the reintroduction of the Hut tax is informed by the acute desire of the ordinary Liberian for meaningful inclusion in the national economic and political life of the country.

This situation, he observed has tended to create a mindset wherein people feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for their underdevelopment, being caught in virtual poverty traps that appear to offer limited or no possibilities for self-actualization and upward social mobility.

As such according to him, it was not surprising that calls by some chiefs for the retention in the counties of portion of the Hut tax to be used for development purposes went virtually unheeded by officials of Government.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Are there taxes of the Hut that are used for economic and social development?! I fear that the tax money is used for a particular purpose of the collective or individual.

  2. “Pro-poor” and hut tax do not mix! A recipe for more corruption. Hut taxes collected in the past ended up in the pockets of the collectors. Miss Saah is right! Build the roads before you start talking about toll, putting the horse before the carrier. Yes, this Liberia all right!

  3. Hut tax equals slavery period. Besides hut tax, self-imposed fines such as cash, chickens, goats, young girls and towing loads and lodging are demanded by commissioners for tax collectors. The people of Liberia must reject reintroduction of hut tax and Pro-Poor Agenda to bring back memories of the slavery in Liberia.

    • Hon. Flomo, to say ” Hut Tax equal Slavery period” is to ask what is slavery?. When the people themselves decided to move mountain with their hands that’s not slavery as compare to when you asked them to do so beyond their consent. When people were sent to firestone from Lofa to help establish rubber in Liberia, that was slavery but many went on their own. President Tolbert is just rolling in his grave to hear this news. He was mobilizing the citizens at that time to take ownership financially for national development and today sons and daughters of the soil realizing that’s the best way to put Liberia on the development role map, I do not see it as slavery. This pro poor agenda must work and it is a bottom up approach to National Development. Lets try it because the options are limited in fund generation.

  4. ” In acknowledging the significance of land reform ( which never happened ) , decentralization(which never happened) , reconciliation( which never happened ), constitutional reform( which never happened ), good governance( which never happened) and without going back and asking the people about tax hut in their villages , towns , clans or districts , the so-called traditional chiefs as leaders of their village, town, district or clan have concluded on their very own about proposing to government to pass a hut tax. If the villages , towns , districts are willing to pay tax hut , let them use that money to build, schools , health facilities and other social needs for themselves , instead of here government tax us and take our money . Government already has control over the natural resources found in those areas without helping to develop them , yet still another added tax on huts that do not have safe running water, electricity and farm to market roads ? Illiteracy is a very dangerous thing to play. After 170 years of under development for themselves and their children, illiteracy has got a hold on them beyond stupidity. Perhaps, maybe they are from a primitive traditional culture .

  5. “Pro Poor” Agenda is an agenda that will focus on improving the living standards of the poor within the fifteen counties of the Republic of Liberia. For me, this is wonderful. Let us all support the agenda.
    On the other hand, the reintroduction of Hut Tax, which was abolished in 1980 by the Military Government in the supreme interest of poor and suffering Liberians can not be reintroduced alongside a “Pro Poor” Agenda.
    The Traditional Chiefs should be very careful about who they listen to. The reintroduction of Hut Tax and Toll Gates, before the roads are constructed is a very smart move to make the George and Jowel CDC led Government very unpopular with the rural population within the fifteen Political Subdivisions of Liberia. Just be reminded that there are free agents among you, who have nothing to contribute other than to ensure that the CDC does not succeed.

  6. Were Chiefs under duress to sign the so-called HUT TAX AGREEMENT? This Pro-Government came to power with many false PROMISES and has not delivered any instead looking for outdated TAX ENFORCEMENT on the very POORS, they promised to change their living conditions. My questions are what will the Poor Natives benefit from the HUT TAX? Can this Administration understand that we are in the 21st Century? Are there people in the Weah’s Administration that understand how to create Tax policies that will generate REVENUES? This new Government is going back to the Tubman’s days when the Poor Natives were abused for being unable to pay HUT TAX.

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