A stalwart of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Montserrado County District #8 Representative, Acarous Gray, has expressed concern over the recent threats made by GSM operators in Liberia over the payment of surcharge fees as earlier agreed upon with the Government through the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA).
Recently, the operators of GSM companies in Liberia – Orange and MTN LoneStar – threatened to pull out if the government pushes for the surcharge to be paid by them instead of the customers.
The surcharge is a government revenue generator from the telecommunications sector and which was recently implemented to replace the five percent tax on the companies.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday in Monrovia, Rep. Gray said, it is frustrating for GSM companies operating in Liberia to be arguing that surcharge fees be paid by customers, adding that “they can leave if they want to but they must pay the surcharge fees.”
It can be recalled that the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) and owners of the two GSM companies met and agreed to put an end to the three-day ‘free call’ for the companies to generate more revenue to pay the surcharge.
Representative Gray, who is the Vice Chairman for Political Affairs of the ruling CDC, described the threats made by the operators as just “mere bluff”, adding that if the companies fail to pay the government’s share, he will introduce bills that will restrict GSM companies from imposing fees on services without the knowledge of government, especially the Liberian Legislature.
“Since the enforcement of that agreement, both Orange and MTN LoneStar have generated about 14 percent increment in revenue but the companies are now reneging on paying the share of government which is intended for the education and health sectors.
“If they fail to adhere to the order or the agreement signed, I will lobby for the agreement to revoke their permits. The operators are not being fair in the process and that is unacceptable,” Gray indicated.
He stressed: “Gone are the neo-colonialism period where multi-national companies will abuse agreements signed with government on grounds of strong economic power to control the government.”
He stated that in 2016, during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. Benoni Urey wrote the president for the surcharge, which points to the three-day free call being cut off, but that was not enforced until the CDC administration, where MTN LoneStar was near closure due to lack of revenue generation.
He stated that, “the government is not willing to accept monopoly in these contemporary times, and so modified the model to 45 minutes for three days, suggesting that surcharge fees is already being captured.