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Cablegate: Implementing Trade Bills Passed by Outgoing Parliament - A

VZCZCXYZ0032
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFN #0586/01 2691740
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261740Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1404

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000586

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W, DRL

E.O. 12958
TAGS: PGOV KDEM ECON PINR SL

SUBJECT: IMPLEMENTING TRADE BILLS PASSED BY OUTGOING PARLIAMENT - A
CONTINUING PRIORITY?


1. (U) SUMMARY. Sierra Leone's last parliament unanimously passed
three trade promotion bills before the expiration of its term ending
June 25, 2007. These bills include the Sierra Leone Investment and
Export Promotion Agency Act, the Registration of Business Act, and
the General Law (Business Start-Up) Amendment Act. All are intended
to promote export and encourage investment. According to recently
released World Bank figures, Sierra Leone ranks 160 among 178 rated
countries for ease of doing business. The local business community
generally welcomed these bills, but expressed that much more needs
to be done to ensure increased investment and economic growth. The
recent transfer of government authority to All People's Party
(APC)'s Ernest Koroma, who ran a successful insurance business prior
to his government service, should bode well for the implementation
of these bills as well as the for the economic growth of Sierra
Leone. END SUMMARY.

PARLIAMENT CREATES NEW TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGENCY

2. (U) The outgoing Parliament passed the Sierra Leone Investment
and Export Promotion Agency (SLEIPA) Act on March 29, 2007. This
act calls for a new entity, the Sierra Leone Investment and Export
Promotion Agency (SLEIPA), to replace the Sierra Leone Export
Development and Investment Company (SLEDIC), which was charged with
promoting exports. Parliament believed that SLEDIC had overly
focused on export promotion to the detriment of encouraging foreign
investment. The new act mandates that SLEIPA focus its goals equally
between investment and export promotion.

3. (U) SLEIPA's primary objectives in export promotion will be to
encourage the development of agricultural production and exports, to
raise local awareness of the importance of exporting, and to advise
vendors interested in expanding into foreign markets. To encourage
investment in Sierra Leone, the agency will work to identify and
educate potential investors as well as to advertise investment
opportunities in Sierra Leone.

REGISTRATION OF BUSINESS ACT PASSED

4. (U) The Registration of Business Act was passed on June 8, 2007
to strengthen the registration of businesses and safeguard business
proprietary names. It provides for tighter restrictions on
registering business names to ensure more protection for business
owners. The act also decreases the number of steps necessary to
obtain a registration certificate, thus reducing the time required
to start a business. The number of days to start a business in
Sierra Leone is currently 26 days and the act should reduce this
period even further.

BUSINESS START-UP LAW REMOVES OBSTACLES

5. (U) The General Law (Business Start-up) Act was passed by
Parliament on June 6, 2007. This act is aimed at removing barriers
to the expeditious establishment, growth, and development of
businesses in Sierra`$QRk?/ueases the duration of work and resident permits
to enable foreigners to more easily establish and maintain
businesses in Sierra Leone.

ACTS GARNER UNANIMOUS PARLIAMENTARY SUPPORT

6. (SBU) The legislation enjoyed the support of all political
parties represented in Parliament who unanimously passed all three
trade bills. The bills were introduced to Parliament by the
Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Kadi Sesay, who piloted them
through the legislative process. To ensure completion of passage of
the legislation prior to the termination of the last session of
Parliament, President Kabbah used his constitutional prerogative to
issue a certificate of urgency, which mandates that named
legislation be immediately put to a vote.

FUTURE OF BILLS IN LIMBO DUE TO RECENT ELECTIONS

7. (SBU) While the legislation has been passed, little has been done
to implement these laws as Sierra Leone has just completed national
elections. Most government officials - elected and career - have
spent their work days campaigning for their political party rather
than conducting the business of government. The new Parliament, now
made up of a majority of the former opposition APC party, will not
open officially until early October 2007. The APC opposition
candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, a successful businessman, won the
presidency and was sworn into office on September 17. However, he
has yet to name his cabinet and key ministers and is relying on a
temporary transition team at this time. It will fall to this new
government - when established - to implement these trade bills and
explore more ways to ensure a more positive business and trade
environment.

8. (U) The implementation of these bills and introduction of other

improvements is essential as the current environment is not
adequately conducive to the conduct of business. According to
recently released World Bank indicators, Sierra Leone ranks low for
the ease of doing business at 160 out of the 178 rated countries.
Among African countries, it ranks 31 out of 46.

COMMENT

9. (SBU) COMMENT: The Sierra Leonean business community welcomes
the enactment of the new trade legislation. However, many believe
that the GoSL must do considerably more if the business environment
is to open up and promote true economic growth. For example,
restoring key infrastructure, such as a reliable energy supply, will
be critical to making Sierra Leone an attractive business
opportunity. In particular, the business community looks forward to
a reduction of the high duties placed on imports by the National
Revenue Authority (NRA), which they consider to be the most critical
barrier to investment in Sierra Leone. They believe that lowering
import duties will have a multiplying effect by encouraging
additional business investment, promoting employment, lowering the
costs of consumer goods and services, and reducing the high cost of
living. However, considering revenues generated from import duties
are the third largest source of income for the government, it seems
highly unlikely that the new government would significantly reduce
these duties anytime soon.

10. (SBU) COMMENT CONT'D: Before joining Parliament and taking on
the Presidency, President Koroma was a successful businessman in the
insurance sector. Considering this, we expect that he will actively
address the concerns of the business community and, therefore, push
the implementation of these bills forward once his government is in
place. Beyond this legislation, many speculate that his business
background will lead him to encourage even more significant
improvements in the business environment that will expand investment
opportunities and reduce the burdens of running a business in Sierra
Leone, which would be a positive improvement for Sierra Leone and a
necessary contribution to the country's development. END COMMENT.

PRATT

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