In merely six months, the ruling All People Congress Government has increased tariffs of electricity, water, passports, fuel oil and now mobile tariff (Top Up Cards), which invariable continues to affect the already suffering masses.
It was yesterday, in what looks like an already stage managed dialogue conference as organized by NATCOM (country’s telecommunication regulators), at the Bitumani Hotel, where of course service providers and some handpicked civil society organizations met to pretentiously discuss ‘increase’ or ‘no increase’ in mobile tariff.
And to the disappointment of persons present during the deliberation, almost all the CSOs who spoke on the increment/no increment of tariff disappointedly supported the proposal.
As he clears name of his institution, Momoh Konte, Chairman NATCOM was quick to make understandable his commission’s position that “NATCOM is but merely a referee who will listen to both the consumers and service providers, then later make a decision.”
A representative of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo has said however that the dialogue conference is not only important because it seeks to address tariff, but because it addresses issues of ‘availability’ and ‘affordability’ of telecommunication facilities, how service providers should survive too.
One of the service providers who certainly wasn’t a part of the perceived stage managed business, Foday Sankoh of On Lime Sierra Leone, said: “his organization is but not in support of any increment of tariff, rather wanted government reduce taxes and improve on the installed fibre optic to the provinces.”
It could be recalled that the World Bank has said that Sierra Leone already has the highest tariff on mobile phone in the region, and at a point called on government enhance reduction of tariff.
Professionally, any increment of tariff by service providers needs to be supported by reasons linking services provided, and not unreasonable excuses vis-à-vis increase in prices of electricity, fuel, and foreign exchange as was flimsily put forward by all of the service providers present at the Bintumani conference.
However, and even though customers still have respect for the current Chairman of NATCOM on grounds that he has been the first to have brought both the consumers and service providers together on issues of increment of tariff, their suspicions are that he (Momoh Konteh) may have been compromised by existing mobile companies into soft handedly making them sail through their ill-gotten plans.
Comments as observed by users of the social media are that those so called civil society representatives have had no understanding with their respective organizations preceding the Bintumani meeting and so have virtually not represented their interests at all.