11 June 2018

Liberia: "Domestic Resource Mobilization Cannot Be Improved Without Technology"

- Says LRA Commissioner General Tamba as Lonestar Cell MTN, UBA and RG-3 Enhance Mobile Tax Payment Service

The Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Mrs. Elfrieda Stewart Tamba says there is no way Liberia can improve her Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) without the involvement of technology.

DRM, the process through which countries raise and spend their own funds to provide for their people, is the long-term path to sustainable development finance. DRM not only provides governments with the funds needed to alleviate poverty and deliver public services, but it is also a critical step on the path out of aid dependence.

Mrs. Tamba said to transform revenue administration by utilizing effective Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the use of mobile money in tax administration will help the country in its development drive.

The LRA Commissioner General made the remark during the launch of the Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile Money Tax Payment Service, held on Friday, June 8, at the headquarters of the LRA in Paynesville City

She said building the LRA has to be driven by innovation and automation and there is no way that Liberia can improve domestic resource mobilization without the application of technology.

"We believe that effective collection of government revenue can strengthen the social contract between citizens, companies, and government," Mrs. Tamba said. "And innovation and automation are essential to facilitate the needed improvement in voluntary compliance."

She added "Let me thank Lonestar Cell MTN for the collaboration. And if we as a country want to achieve our Pro-Poor agenda, then we need to accomplish a higher level of voluntary compliance. The higher voluntary compliance is, the larger the revenue part, the easier it will be to attain the Pro-Poor agenda and, by extension, the Sustainable Development Goals."

Atty. Massa Dennis, Head of Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile Money, who explained the significance of the platform, told the crowd that mobile money is not just creating access to financial services but also creating the means of livelihood for over 3,000 mobile money agents spread across Liberia.

MTN mobile money processes US$20 million transactions monthly, which clearly shows that there is now a mobile money movement with the potential to substantially author the economic part of the poor and the emerging economy at large. "For this reason, the private and public sector must work together to nurture this new industry," she said.

Atty. Dennis said the direct involvement of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has been so important to ensure that stakeholders work together toward a common vision within an enabling environment.

"As we launch this digital payment via MTN Mobile Money today, we are making payment for government taxes and fees easier widely accessible. We are proud to reaffirm our commitment to joining forces with all of our stakeholders to respond to the needs of not only our customers but for all Liberians," Atty. Dennis said.

Atty. Massa Dennis, Head, Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile Money, explains the significance of the Mobile Money Platform

The United Bank for Africa (UBA) managing director, Olalekan Balogun said, "We are delighted to be partnering with Lonestar Cell MTN, LRA and the USAID Revenue Generation for Governance and Growth Project (RG3) to launch such a laudable project that will put Liberia on par with others."

Bringing this kind of project to actualization, according to Balogun is a boost for the government revenue sector. "This will drive compliance because I believe that most people give a lot of excuses in paying their taxes to the government so with this technology everyone is now going to pay their legitimate taxes."

Mr. Olalekan Balogun, UBA CEO, makes remarks

Mr. Balogun also promised the government through the LRA that the bank stands ready to support any project that will bring efficiency and encourage people to make payment without distress.

Lonestar Cell MTN Deputy CEO, Laureine Guilao, who spoke on behalf of the new chief executive officer Uche Ofodile, said they are very excited to officially launch the Mobile Money Tax and Non-Tax payments via MTN.

"At Lonestar Cell MTN, we have this belief that every single Liberian should have a benefit of modern connected life and we are continuously working towards that goal by taking everyone on board a new digital world. So, this is a major step in that direction and we hope to continue to find ways to better the lives of Liberians," Ms. Guilao concluded.

The Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile Tax Payment Service will cover tax collections including Business Income Tax (2%, 4%), Corporate Income Tax, Personal Income Tax, Excise Tax, Goods, and Service Tax, Withholding and Real Estate Tax. The platform will also be used to pay non-tax fees for Birth, Marriage, Travel Clearance, Fire Safety and Business Registration Renewal Certificates.

Authors

David A. Yates

Liberia

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