The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) is deeply concerned about the public transport sit-in protest that occurred in Honiara City yesterday which has affected workers, students and members of the general public.
SICCI is calling on the rightful authorities through the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) and the Honiara Public Transport Association to come up with an amicable solution to this impasse.
Many commuters were left stranded and had to seek alternative transport as Honiara bus and taxi operations came to a halt yesterday morning across the City after public transport owners went on strike over the recent enforcement on tax increase, which they claim is too expensive.
The IRD within the Ministry of Finance and Treasury is of the view that bus and taxi owners are liable to pay income tax just like all other businesses in the Solomon Islands.
SICCI’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dennis Meone said the transport strike is affecting workplace productivity in both the private and public sectors including other organizations as employees and the general public were left stranded getting to work on time.
“Businesses and service providers are hugely impacted by this issue as their normal operations are halted and or delayed with huge financial implications through unplanned overtime and loss of productivity.
“In fact a lot of organizations and companies are starting late and have to close early in the afternoon to allow their employees to walk home.
“And we are sure that this issue cuts across to Government offices as well,” he said.
Mr Meone said sadly, school students (the future generation) are also affected and are deprived of getting to their respective schools on time, noting especially those classes that are going to sit their exams.
“Our schools are having their national examination week this week and most of our students rely on public transport to get to and from school on a daily basis.
“The policy intentions are well understood but in the grand scheme of things we have to minimize any impacts on productivity, affordability and costs including any broader economic and social ramifications, hence, the opportunity to find an amicable solution to the situation,” Mr Meone said.
SICCI Board Member and Honiara businessman Toata Molea appealed to all parties involved in the negotiations to urgently and cordially find a negotiated settlement.
Mr Molea said that parties involved must find a solution inspired by a common desire to make public transport industry reliable, affordable and safe for the travelling public.
“The only reasonable outcome that we expect from the negotiations is the immediate resumption of bus and taxi operations, whilst Government, the IRD and the Public Transport Association find a permanent solution to the impasse,” he said.
Meanwhile IRD this Friday will be hosting a Business After Five (BA5) event with SICCI members to discuss their new online E-Tax service.
With the new IRD online service, businesses can register for an IRD online account and use their allocated IDs to file online Goods Tax, Sales Tax and PAYE.
In the coming months IRD will also be adding the ability to file and pay Income Tax and Withholding Tax online. The ultimate goal is to transform the entire IRD tax platforms to a digital one, allowing easy and efficient e-filing and e-payments.