The Renaissance Movement (RM) has issued a Position paper expressing great concerns over the proposed increment in the toll gate fare.

In line with their mission, the movement believes that such a move is not only. burdening the already economically challenged populace but, as it stands, does not support the principles of transparency and accountability.

They thank the Committee on Works for opening its doors and holding consultations to strengthen the inclusive nature of this process. They described the consultations as being meaningful, and they hope the inputs of all citizens, the voices of those affected, and stakeholders will be given due consideration in the decision-making process.

They urge parliament through the Committee on Works to consider these three key Points in this decision-making process on the adjustment of the toll gate tariff:

1. Impact on Citizens: Increasing toll gate fees places an undue financial strain on citizens, particularly low-income earners, and vulnerable citizens (the aged, the unemployed, and people living with disabilities). With the cost of living and inflation already high (47.2 as of January 2024-Stats. SL.), any additional financial burden exacerbates the socio-economic challenges faced by ordinary Sierra Leoneans.

2. Economic Implications: Higher toll gate fees have ripple effects on the economy, including increased transportation costs for goods and services. This, in turn, leads to inflationary pressures, hindering economic growth and exacerbating poverty levels. It is worth noting that as per the Finance Act 2024, there is already a duty levy of 5% on rice importation that is going to grow to 10% in 2025, and an increase in other import duties for cement (20%), cooking gas (5%) and iron rods (10%). The transport industry will take advantage of any increment and so will businesspeople, thereby transferring all these increments to poor ordinary people most of whom are minimum wage earners (NLE 800).

3. Transparency and Accountability: We call for transparency in the toll traffic data, collections, and current standing of the loan repayment. Additionally, it is important to confirm if the 10% due government from the toll collections has been paid as well as any other development planned in the agreement implemented. Increments, if they must happen, must be humane and not more than 50% of the current toll fees. This should contribute to national development and reflect our desire to own this infrastructure.

The Renaissance Movement calls on the Committee of Works to consider the following in their recommendations. to the plenary of Parliament:

1. Data Transparency: Ensure that CRSG provides comprehensive data on traffic volumes, toll gate collections, and the status of loans associated with the toll gate investment. Transparent data will facilitate informed decision-making and promote accountability. Currently, we are boxing shadows as we are not sure what is realistic about their claims and requests.

2. Alternative Revenue Sources to absorb costs: We call on the government to explore alternative revenue sources to cushion any adjustments to ensure that it does not further negatively affect citizens. The government can consider plowing back its 10% as a way of taking this burden off citizens. Another way is to extend the toll gate agreement to allow for a recoup of costs if all financial analysis after traffic data and collections have been shared proves to be a viable and reasonable option.

In the absence of clarity, the Renaissance Movement vehemently opposes any increment in toll gate fees without proper transparency. Such a move if it goes ahead, undermines the welfare of citizens, and exacerbates economic challenges. We urge the parliament to prioritize the interests of the people.