21 August 2017

Ethiopia: PM Scolds Businesses Over Tax, Corruption

Photo: Addis Fortune
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right) and Solomon Afeworq, president of ECCSA (left) addressing the concerns of businesses during the third annual consultative meeting between the government and the private sector.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in the latest consultative meeting between the government and private businesses, scolded the private sector mainly on the issue of corruption and taxes, which were talking points in the country over the past month.

In a meeting attended by no less than 700 members from various lines of businesses and high-level government bodies, the Prime Minister gave strong responses to the private sector on the 12 discussion points that were raised by the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (ECCSA).

The mood in the no-less-than-five hours meeting, held at Sheraton Addis Hotel on August 19, 2017, was interactive and engaging.

In the third forum when the Prime Minister met business actors from various sectors, Solomon Afework, president of ECCSA, begun the meeting by raising the 12 points the Association wanted to be addressed. Unlike the previous meetings, there was not any study presented to the public.

Solomon's address was followed by questions from the presidents of the chamber and sectoral associations from Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and the Southern Nations, Nationalists and Peoples' regional states.

The recent corruption case, that has implicated dozens of officials abruptly, was the major point raised by attendees. In this respect, the members of the chamber demanded the government to give a sustainable solution for corruption.

"It should not just come once every few years and disappear," said Solomon, while stating the agenda of the meeting.

Over the past four weeks, the Federal Police Commission arrested 55 officials, business people and brokers related to the recent high-level corruption case. The court also froze the assets of over 200 individuals who are suspected of having affiliation with the officials.

"You know them better than any part of the community, but you did not even point them out. The business community should be aware that no one is untouchable," Hailemariam replied. "The next focus of attention will be the business community."

The issue of the recent tax assessment was also among the points that were frequently raised by the attendants throughout the meeting, framed as a discussion agenda by the chamber.

Solomon, on behalf of the traders, asserted that complaints on the tax assessment are not being addressed in due time.

"The assessment of tax payers with books of account was conducted by some assessors," said Solomon.

Admitting the problem, Hailemariam related the issue to lack of proper communication between the public and Ethiopian Revenue & Customs Authority (ERCA).

"I believe there were not proper discussions despite the reports made by the Authority," he said. "We have found out that 40pc of taxpayers are assessed wrongly."

On the other hand, like previous meetings, lack of access to finance continued to be an issue for the business community. In this stance, attendees have requested the government to adjust loan limits to micro finance institutions (MFIs), which currently stand at one percent of the total capital of MFIs.

Despite all the active interaction among traders and government, parts of the meeting were found to be unfruitful for some veterans in the industry.

"Some of the questions that were raised by the member are irrelevant and pointless," Zafu Eyessuswork, board chairman of United Bank and former president of Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA).

Nevertheless, the consultative forum was an overall success for Solomon, who has led ECCSA for the past four years.

"I believe we have reached an understanding on most of the issues except finance."


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