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NATCOM, stakeholders meet on tariff

20,Jul 2016
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By Salaam Deen Bundu

National Telecommunications Commission (NaTCOM) yesterday 18th July 2016 held a consultative meeting at the Bintumani hotel in Freetown with stakeholders regarding the request made by telecommunication operators to increase airtime tariff.

During the session, speaker after speaker called on telecoms operators not to increase tariff for now as the cost of living is very much high. The speakers appealed to the operators to maintain the current tariff for now taking into consideration the difficult economic situation facing the people of Sierra Leone.

On the other hand, telecommunications operators advanced reasons why they want to increase tariff citing the high exchange rate among other things. They said all the equipment and fuel are being bought using United States dollars and that the dollar rate is going up by the day which they noted is a challenge.

Civil society’s Williams Sao Lamin at the meeting called on government to reduce tax for telecommunications operators, adding that government should prioritize certain areas for the good of the people of this country.

 

Also, another fervent civil society activist, Charles Mambu expressed serious concerns about the poor quality of service provided by telecommunications companies especially Airtel. He said all concerns raised by telecommunications operators are correct but that the present economic situation in the country is seriously hampering the move for people to meet the demands of the operators.

Africell’s Managing Director, Shadi Gerjawi named fuel cost as one of the added costs that were not considered when the current tariff was placed six years ago. “We are spending lots of money on expansion, paying 15% GST, 25% fuel cost, 5% PAYE and increase in the minimum wage are all affecting our operations,” he said, and added that they want to continue proving quality services to customers but are constrained with the current increase in exchange rates.

Airtel’s Managing Director, Dapo Olasope said the current tariff came into effect when exchange rate to the United State Dollar was Le4350. “We here to provide quality communication service, make the modest profit and give back to society from the little profit we make,” he said.

At the end of the discussions, NaTCOM and stakeholders succeeded in convincing telecommunications operators not to increase their tariff for now and the operator assured that they have listened to the pleads and will heed to the cry of the people. They said they will maintain the current tariff at least for now and will delay any increase.

The meeting was climaxed with a final communiqué by the operators, stakeholders and NaTCOM.

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