House Summons Lonestar Cell MTN on “Fake Promise”

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The House of Representatives has summoned the management of Lonestar Cell MTN over what they called ‘deceit’ for cutting off the three-day free promotion after being the only company that supported the proposed tax increment and pledged to bear the responsibility without passing the cost on to consumers.

Last month, the Legislature approved the increase the excise rate on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and also the one cent per minute on all calls, pursuant to the amendment of Section 16 to grant Special Investment Incentives to certain businesses; as well as a revision on Section 904 on the Advance Payment or Turnover Tax.

The increment took effect January 1.

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday during the 3rd day sitting, mandated the Chief Clerk to invite Lonestar Cell MTN on Thursday, January 19, 2017, to answer why they have deceived the Liberian people in halting the three day promotion.

The House also summoned the Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) and the Ministry of Finance, on the total tax intake of the one cent per minute on all calls and other related issues in the telecommunication sector.

It may be recalled that in a public hearing conducted last year by the Joint Committee of the Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature, a number of influential business entities including Cellcom GSM, the
Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the Monrovia Breweries, as well as the Tobacco Associations of West Africa rejected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s proposal to the Legislature to increase excise tax on tobacco, phone calls, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

The business entities said the tax increment would not only affect production and sales, but would also encourage redundancy, unemployment and poverty.

Lonestar Cell MTN was the only company that supported the proposed tax increment and promised to bear the responsibility without passing the cost on to consumers.

The public hearing at that time aimed to review the Special Amendment to the Revenue Code of 2011, which calls for the imposition of one cent (US$0.01) per minute on phone calls, and the other five amendments.

It may be also be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote the Legislature in 2016, arguing that the increment will provide incentives for additional investments in the economy and the direct revenue implication of US$30.1 million to support the FY16/17 National Budget.

“Mr. Speaker, in my message transmitting the FY16/17 Proposed Budget, I mentioned to you that certain assumptions in the resource envelop have been placed under ‘Contingent Revenue’ because some legislative actions will be required in order to realize those revenues,” the President wrote.

According to reports, Cellcom GSM is the only company among the three GSM to still uphold the three days free calls.

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