Tax breaks worsen struggle against poverty
Several companies, including three from the UK, have been named in a report outlining factors that have deepened problems of poverty and food shortages in Sierra Leone.
An investigation by Christian Aid found that tax breaks enjoyed by agricultural investment companies Addax Bioenergy (SL) Ltd, Socfin Agricultural Company Ltd, and Goldtree Ltd, were adding to the impoverishment of the country.
The researchers believe that in total US$18.8million a year of government revenue is lost as a result of the deals with just these three companies.
The report states that around one fifth of the country’s arable land has been leased since 2009 to industrial farming concerns, many of them foreign companies producing biofuels from crops such as oil palm and sugar cane.
The new report, ‘Who Is Benefiting?' examines the impact large land leases held by three investors has had on local communities.
In all the areas surveyed local people said they would not have agreed to the land deals were it not for promises made to them about jobs, and the building of roads, along with improved health and education facilities, electricity, and water wells.
Sierra Leone ranks among the world’s least developed countries, at 180th of 187 nations on the 2011 United Nations’ Human Development Index. 70% of its population of about 5.5 million falls below the national poverty line of US$2 a day.
As a result of its findings, the report calls for a review of all existing contracts, and a moratorium on further large scale land investment until existing concerns are addressed, and future contracts can be independently monitored.
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