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Police ‘deny’ cement importers permit to protest

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The Cement Importers and Traders Association has alleged that police have denied them permit to stage a protest match, planned for yesterday Thursday.

A statement from the group said they were called by the police in connection with their  application for permit  and told that they should change their date for the march because Tobaski is fast approaching and the police will not be able to provide adequate security for the planned protest.

They said they were told to reapply and change their date and wait for police consideration.

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The Cement importers said this is the second time the police have turned down their application for a permit for a peaceful protest.

Background

According to the group, they intend to protest against what they called a misinformation campaign by the Trade Ministry and Jah Oil to justify the 500% increase on duty while large-scale importers are allowed to import cement freely from distant European markets and Senegalese factories, from which small-scale importers are banned.

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“This poorly planned and corrupt policy has led to devastating effects: cement prices have skyrocketed to D500 in Bara and Basse and nearly D440 in the Kombos. Worse, the Jah Oil monopoly they seek to protect already ran out of cement and is now sourcing from the very factories in Senegal that small-scale importers are barred from accessing. The provinces have suffered the most as large-scale importers neglect these markets. This led to a panic within the administration, resulting in a one-time release of trucks at the border as a stopgap for the cement scarcity,” the group said.

 The cement importers said while the government is claiming to be protecting local employment, it was proven that small-scale importers employ four times more people than large-scale importers and pay more taxes, as they do not benefit from tax exemptions like the large-scale importers.

“They even blamed small importers for the rise in the CFA, which was disproven since NAWEC is the largest consumer of the CFA and the CFA continued to rise even after small-scale importers were prevented from operating. Now, the Ministry asserts that the ban on Senegalese cement is a retaliatory trade tactic. However, the true objective is becoming clear: the ban only applies to bagged cement, while powder cement, which only large-scale importers bring in, is still allowed from Senegal and exempt from the D180 import duties. This blatant favoritism gives Jah Oil special privileges while banning all other operators. If the goal was to ban all Senegalese cement, why is there an exception for Jah Oil to both import from Senegal and avoid paying any import duties?”

”All attempts to dialogue with the Barrow administration in good faith have resulted in no meaningful outcome. The administration seeks to enforce a moratorium on bagged cement imports from Senegal for six weeks, while allowing powder cement and Jah Oil to continue operations with no consideration for the thousands of industry employees affected, especially during a time when they need to support their families for Tobaski. Even worse, the consumer impact is disregarded as the Trade Ministry is willing to see consumers suffer from staggering price increases and cement scarcity, despite construction being the greatest contributor to our GDP and destination for foreign remittances. When asked about the consumer impact, their response is simply that consumers must sacrifice. How can this be the policy of a government for the people?

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