BY NDUMBE BELL GASTON IN DOUALA
More and more interest groups belonging to the private sector in Cameroon are increasingly raising grievances against some aspects of the recently prescribed 2019 financial law which they argue the money expected to government increase receipts will adversely slide into the waiting arms of unscrupulous businessmen.
These and other conclusions were made by members of the powerful National Traders Association (called ANCODECAM in french) during and after concertations with Chamber of Commerce officials and public institutions represented by the customs service, the ministry of finance, Minepat, Minmidt, Mincommerce and other stakeholders and their collaborators including chiefs in the region, at a scenario of the Chamber’s head quarter precincts last Tuesday March 12.
Economic operators of mostly imported tobacco and beer products who were more vocal argued that the business of the day which was demanded by the association that the state withdraw or scrap the negative impact of Article 142 (7) of the new finance law because this law would instead empty government coffers and create unfair competition between importers and domestic producers and worst of all, stimulate contraband activities with neighboring countries where payment of duties will be relatively low.
In a heated debate that almost went out of hand, if not of the timely moderation of the Secretary General of the Chamber Halidou Bello, the representatives of the state were unable to convince economic operators despite their eloquent presentations that because of the crises in the nation, they should understand and sacrifice. This was countered with illustrations and cases in point by members.
Reports made by groups like ANCODECAM said that the application of article 142 (7) has increased the duty of imported tobacco to a burdensome 100%. They are quoted to have been disappointed because importers say the law has been created exclusively to run them out of business while those who are importing inputs to produce in the country are favoured. Others said those who thought that the measures are going to supply sufficient oxygen at this turning point of the nation’s history will be very surprised. The borders are very porous and the real accomplices are some government officials who encourage illicit trade, they alleged.
Economic operators urged the Chamber of Commerce to take their complaints to hierarchy for immediate consideration or else the economy is going to suffer from further shocks.
In an unprecedented move, a representative from a consumer association said that, they are in support with the state for increasing prices for, especially items like alcohol and tobacco because the country is already very sick.
Among the listed recommendations that the Secretary General of the Chamber promised to take up to help economic operators for the introduction of fair play were that, economic operators were not included in decision taking procedures, changes are to be introduced after 3 years duration and not before then, the tax law needs to be changed and that, too much taxation kills the economy, among others.
Standing by the Secretary-General in a press briefing, Hon. Ketchanga Celestin 35 years in business, was asked about what he thought about the recommendations, “This concertation which includes trade syndicates, traders, state officials and other stakeholders, is very indispensable because the article 142 (7) is the main grievance. When I was in parliament I decried such duties on champagne. We were the biggest consumers but the products did not come through our port. It came from neighbouring countries. We risk going back to that same phenomenon where today a container that used to cost F CFA 37 million is now at F92 million. We (ourselves) are creating a good environment for contraband activities which is counter-productive to the growth of the economy. Too much taxation diminishes collection. We better stop”.