By Martin K. N. Kollie, firstname.lastname@example.org
President, Economics Student Association (ESA)
University of Liberia
This is what I think as a Student of Economics. These are 10 visible dangers or risks of canceling ‘3 days’ free call’ and other bonanzas, in my opinion. The government stands to risk a lot if this new regulatory policy of imposing an additional 5% fee on GSM Companies is not urgently reversed.
- Personal inward remittances from Diaspora Liberians will fall because most Liberians in the country will be unable to foot the high cost of communicating through voice calls and SMS. As a result, the inflow of foreign currency will decline further, which has a negative impact on our reserves. For instance, we had a sharp decline of US$101.9 million in personal inward remittances last year. With this new unreasonable imposition of telecommunication fees by GoL through LTA, it is going to be even more disastrous.
- Domestic revenue through taxes will shrink. GSM companies will lose thousands of customers who are unable to meet up with the new fees. The demand for scratch cards and other GSM services will shift downward. As a result, there will be a leakage in the revenue base of these GSM companies, which could contribute to job losses and negatively impact investment. When this happens, corporate and income taxes will also be hampered. Let it be known that Orange and Lonestar are maintaining their customer base mainly because of their promotions/bonanzas.
- Based on the prevailing disturbance or shock caused in the telecommunication market as a result of this new policy measure by GoL through LTA, GSM companies could redundant employees or adjust nominal wages especially when profit margins become really tight as a result of a downward shift in the demand of their products/services. This could negatively impact purchasing power and household income. Unemployment could rise in this case.
- Social media and ICT services, including internet access, have become so useful in this age of modernity. No country easily connects with the rest of the world in a more convenient and beneficial manner without unlimited access to internet. The new policy would limit a lot of Liberians from accessing various internet platforms including Yahoo, G-mail, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Skype lest we forget that access to affordable internet could link Liberians to a wide range of opportunities including conferences, education or capacity-building programs, business/investment, health, social relationships, tips or solutions in different fields of life, research, etc. I am wondering how will our students, teachers, and all citizens even do research amidst the high cost of accessing the internet.
- This new policy will hinder local and international trade (commerce and industry) which will have an adverse impact on growth and development. Everywhere and in all countries, communication is key. There can be no trade or any business transaction without communication. Access to a low-cost model/conduit of communication (SMS, voice calls, video calls, internet calls, etc.) could create a more flexible space for business and economic boom. With this new regulation, easy trade among local and international entrepreneurs as well as consumers will be hindered. How will marketers, motorcyclists, farmers, hunters, fishermen, artisanal miners, pen-pen riders, students, teachers, policemen, nurses, and street peddlers communicate especially when the cost of just a 1-dollar scratch card now is L$230 just for a few minutes, and not 3 days as it was in past times?
- This new regulation will affect the financial market, especially internet banking or online banking. Due to this hike in fees, a number of Liberians or customers will be unable to carry out an online transaction with the central bank and the commercial banks in a more convenient and cheaper manner. As a result, a lot of people will prefer using the manual process of standing in long queues which could create traffic in most of our banks and even discourage a number of customers from saving their money with the banks.
- The new regulation will hamper our individual and collective security. Communication is security. If prices to call are unreasonably hiked, how does one easily call a Law Enforcement Officer or a relative if there are issues of insecurity or lawlessness (physical violence, armed robbery, SEA, human trafficking, sale of dangerous substances (drug and alcohol abuse), theft, accident, etc.
- The new policy does not only discourage rapid advancement in technology, but it scares away internet users. This policy will contribute to a decline in the number of Liberians using various internet platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google) and technological hardware (computers, modem, drive, satellite, smartphone, etc.
- In some quarters, the latest telecommunication policy appears more of an attempt on the part of the government to muzzle free speech and access to information which undermines Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution and the 2010 Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. This could injure the image or democratic profile of the government.
- Based on the declining economic condition in Liberia, this new regulation will certainly contribute to the increase in hardship and make Liberians even more vulnerable to extreme poverty. So far, there has been a popular consensus by the people for the government to reverse this new policy. Let it be known that laws ought to be made for the general good of the people in order to promote their utmost interest. If this government insists on executing this harsh regulation which is against the interest of the people, it will pay a huge price for such insensitivity in all impending elections, especially 2020 and 2023 elections. If the people realize that their survival, safety, and wellbeing are further threatened as a result of harsh policies by the government which mostly affect them, they could rise and institute a wave of mass civil actions.
It is my hope that the government will listen and not consider me as a fierce critic like it usually does. The ‘3 days’ free call’ and other bonanzas from GSM companies were a source of relief for our people. It was like their LAST HOPE. Canceling this promotion as a result of the imposition of harsh regulatory fees is a risky adventure which could cost the government a lot.
About The Author:
Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, an emerging economist, and a columnist. He is an avowed proponent of social democracy and economic justice, and he can be reached via email@example.com