Govt.’s chicken tax “lacks transparency”

By Ivamere Nataro 22 April 2018, 12:00AM

The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed disappointment over the lack of consultation on the Customs and Tariff Bill, which will increase the cost of imported food items like chicken.

In fact, Chamber’s Chief Executive Officer, Lemauga Hobart Va’ai, said the Government’s handling of the matter “lacks transparency.” 

He made the comments in response to questions from the Sunday Samoan. 

“The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry is disappointed that once again, despite a standing agreement with the Government to have a ‘no surprises’ approach to any proposed changes to the policies and laws that impact on the private sector and consumers, import duties on imported frozen chicken are being imposed with little or no timely consultation,” Lemauga said. 

“Such an approach lacks transparency and fosters uncertainty which could regrettably result in job losses as well as higher end-user food costs."

“Candid and timely dialogue would enable the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry to provide fully informed impact assessments of any proposed changes as well as possible appropriate alternate solutions for addressing the issues underlying any proposed changes.”  

Lemauga says should proposed changes ultimately go through, the private sector would require time to take the measures necessary to respond to such significant changes. 

“The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry desires a return to a “no surprises” approach to avoid potential negative impacts on employees through job losses, consumers through higher end-user prices and businesses through a presumably unintended quashing of the entrepreneurial spirit.”

The passing of the Customs and Tariff Bill by Parliament last month means new tariff rates will be imposed on all imported frozen chicken. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegoi was quoted earlier as saying the new tax put in place is to help promote a healthy Samoa. 

As reported earlier, this is a grave concern given that chicken is the most affordable meat for families living below the poverty line and middle income earners in Samoa. 

“I disagree with the Government on increasing the tax on chicken given the cost of living that we have today in Samoa. Increasing the tax for health reasons, I don’t think that’s even right. I only hope the Government could have considered that chicken today in Samoa is much cheaper than of tinned fish,” Eseta Faasao of Falelauniu said. 

Waldell Brown of Leauva’a-uta said this is a ridiculous move by the Government. 

“My family eats chicken almost every day because that’s the only meat we can afford. It’s an excuse when they said the extra tax on chicken is for health reasons. 

“I have been eating chicken when I was a kid, I am 58 years old now and I am still strong and well. If they are going to increase the tax on chicken, they might as well decrease the price on the tinned fish or even increase the minimum wage rate.”

Vaine’a Faatafe of Nu’u shared similar sentiments saying increasing tax on chicken will affect so many people because of today’s expensive cost of living. 

“It isn’t a good move by the Government to increase the tax on chicken. Chicken is the most affordable meat there is,” Vaine’a said.

By Ivamere Nataro 22 April 2018, 12:00AM

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