Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Govt. Dismantles Investment Hurdles

Dr. Kadie Sesay stated that the Parliament of Sierra Leone had passed the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency Act 2007, the Business Registration Act 2007 and the General Law (Business Start-up) Act 2007.
She informed the media and representatives of business houses at Parliament Building that the key features of the new business registration Act and the General Law Act are found in the following:
1. There would now be only a three-step company registration process, thereby reducing the bureaucracy that had discouraged investors in the past.
2. The new system would now insist on abolishing the exchange control permission as a company registration requirement
3. The new system for investment now insists on the removal of the mandatory requirement to engage a solicitor for the preparation of the Memorandum and articles of Association (M&A) for the registration of a company as the investor himself or another knowledgeable person can put together the details of a company without going through a lawyer.
4. The new investment also insists on abolishing the need for an annual renewal of Business Licenses obtained from the Registrar General.
5. The questionable payment of advance tax as a precondition for registering a business in Sierra Leone has also been eliminated.
6. The putting in place a significant reduction in cost and time to allow an investor to set up his business in Sierra Leone without unnecessary hurdles.
Dr. Kadie Sesay dilated on the creation of the Investment and Export Promotion Agency Act 2007 when she stated that SLEDIC, otherwise known as the Sierra Leone Export Development and Investment Corporation, which was established in 1993 now needs to be abolished, as it has failed to meet the high expectations associated with investment and trade promotion for a number of reasons.
To justify the formation of a new body with a strong Board and the necessary legal authority, the Investment and Export Promotion Agency Act 2007, Dr. Kadie Sesay said that SLEDIC was not blessed with strong powers of a Board to control management and that the management of SLEDIC had largely remained unaccountable.
She further complained that SLEDIC’s mandate was confused to the extent that an export promoting agency was in the business of promoting imports i.e. Iranian Exhibition.
She stated about the absence of legal requirements to allow SLEDIC to undertake operational planning prior to the commencement of every financial year was also a clear weakness that made SLEDIC near non-functional.
She also argued that a change in the name of the organization was necessary as could reflect its actual functions and that the expansion of the functions of the new organization could include investment promotion as an explicit function of the agency.
The administrative system of the newly created Investment and Export Promotion Agency Act 2007, includes the appointment of two Deputy Executive Officers, one of whom would be responsible for export development and the other for investment promotion.
The putting in place of a new structure to attract investors into Sierra Leone, according to Dr. Kadie Sesay, was the collaborative effort between her Ministry, other Ministries of government and DFID.
According to Dr. Kadie Sesay and the Minister of Labour, Alpha Timbo, the new government policy on investment is also aimed at removing all the administrative hurdles and the unnecessary bureaucracy that had made it difficult for the private sector to expand in Sierra Leone.
The Managing Editor of the New Citizen, I. B. Kargbo, in his contribution asked the rhetoric question as to whether after all these beautiful policies, poor access to Sierra Leone, due to a very archaic airport system at Lungi, would not discourage investors and tourists from investing in the country.
The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Prof. Septimus Kaikai, who chaired the press conference, assured members present that the laws passed by Parliament, to quicken the business of investing in Sierra Leone, should be seen as just one step in addressing those issues related to investing in Sierra Leone as issues relating to the infrastructure should be seen as a next step in government’s effort to attract business people into the country.

The New Citizen Publications