Somaliland number plates: Robbing taxpayers in the name of ‘change’

Members of the Somaliland House of Representatives Financial Audit and Economic Affairs Sub-Committee, today, rejected the Minister of Financial Development’s introduction of new tariffs, vowing to take the matter up with the rest of the floor as soon as possible.

MP Ahmed Mohamed Derie ‘Nacnac’ and Saeed Mohamed Elmi, jointly talking to the media, Sunday, stated that the Minister was not constitutionally mandated to introduce new taxes to the public and that neither was it his to publicly announce them without the deliberation or approval of the parliament.

The MPs were incensed by a series of taxation raises the Minister of Finance has made to the trading and industrial sectors of the country – a country already so feebled by the absence of recognition which unfavourably affected foreign investment, imports, exports, foreign currency earning and international relations, including bilateral and multilateral investment agreements.

Bringing emotions to a boiling point, the ministries of Finance and Transportation, together, announced that new vehicle plate numbers were to be introduced revealing that for a motorist to get one, he or she has to cough up nearly SlShs 1,500,000, equivalent to US$150 to purchase the plate number, change the vehicle log book and pay for stamp duties, what the ministry called ‘overtime’ and the like.

To get the number alone, according to the Minister of Transportation, a new vehicle owner will pay US$100 (Eq. to SlShs 1,000,000) – a 250% increase to the established US$40 hitherto levied. An owner migrating to the new one will pay US$60 – equivalent to SlShs 600,000 with finance taking into account the US$40 already charged for the to-be-changed number plate..

“The public was teetering under the burden of ever spiralling inflation which adversely affected living standards. It is spurious of the minister and his ministry to add injury to the insult,” MP Nacnac said.

He said the Somaliland populace needed lowered tariffs to afford to go by in life.

“You raise a cent, a pound is added to every item of commodity. That is the way traders respond to levied taxes. They do no lose. The household loses. The child loses. the Public loses,” he said.

“Neither this minister nor any other minister in government is mandated to introduce new taxation structures nor can anyone stack up the already untenable tax stacks,” MP Saeed Mohamed Elmi pointed out.

To make matters worse, the ministry, only recently, annulled tax exemptions and free duty considerations given to the few manufacturing plants in Somaliland to shelter them from crippling, productionally debilitating costs and give them a little edge in local markets.

Trying to explain away the increasing volume of criticisms, the Minister of Finance, Yussuf Mohamed Abdi, only attracted more public wrath.

Guleid Dafac, an upcoming human rights lawyer, was quick to point out that the Minister should not have invoked article 52 of the public finances law as if it gave him the right to introduce taxes at will.

“The very article the Minister based his new levies expressly asks him to go to the parliament for approval before publicly attempting to put new taxes in force,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

Only on full ratification of the parliament can new taxes be levied.

Both national, opposition parties, also, upbraided the government, through the concerned ministries, for being obtuse, playing deaf to the anguished cries of its public.

“The government seems to be inured to the distress of its electorate, and is only bent on raking in more and more banknotes regardless of who gets hurt in the process,” they said.

Changing vehicle plates, they said, at a stage where the public could have used all the help the government could extend, was the least of Somaliland’s heap of worries.

The public, on its part, is so disappointed to see their hopes dashed to the ground by a number of ministers in President Musa’s government who are either so junior and experienced on responsibilities held or with chips on shoulders looking for vengeance.

“The government of His Excellency the President, Musa Bihi Bihi, appears to be enjoying a tune the words ‘Change!’ ‘Change!’ are playing on their ears, a tune they alone can hear. The ministers, obviously, have wholeheartedly adopted the President’s call for change, and do not care if said is to the detriment of the already beleaguered taxpayer,” a small investor whose plans for a cottage plant was derailed by the inhibiting factors the government is currently toying with.

The number plates the government is introducing, generally, are not the cause for concern. to the contrary, people welcome the change to the region-based numbers, with the exception of the inexplicable ‘PR‘ letters appearing on private vehicles plates. PR, linguistically and internationally, stands for ‘Public Relations’. If the government meant ‘Private’ – which there was no need for as other sections such as Government transport, UN and INGOs,  and Diplomatic Corps had their own colours, the use of ‘PVT’ could have been more debatable. But then, again, there was no need for such, either.

What is more unacceptable to the public, however, is the demand for drastically incremented levies.

“The President went back on his promises making life more miserable for his constituents rather than building on his more considerate election manifesto,” another vexed voted said.

Closing a workshop for customs officers the week before, the Minister of Finance, boasted that his ministry has bagged in more than the projected revenue for the current fiscal quarter. Only he chose not to add that his ministry doubled, and sometimes tripled, taxes levied on goods, vehicles, and services since the government he belongs to assumed office in December 2017.

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