He reminded his audience that the Ministry of Transport and Aviation in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance will officially launch the country’s Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project on Thursday 28th November, 2019 in Freetown. This initiative seeks to improve the quality of public transport; address climate resilience and improve road safety in selected areas and enhance institutional capacity in the transport sector.
Responding to questions the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Sadiq Sillah started out by saying: “The Ministry of Transport and Aviation is responsible for air, land and sea transportation. In the air transportation that is the aviation aspect I can say with pride that even the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) a wing of the United Nations that deals with air transport organizations and assessment has given us a score of 69%. What was expected as a minimum score was 65% but we are above the minimum by 4%. Why that improvement? When we took over the reins of governance, President Bio gave us a specific task to see increase in the passenger volume to Sierra Leone. For you to see passenger volume increase that will have a direct and positive impact on the Ministry of Tourism; that will have a direct and positive impact also on the foreign exchange, we in the Ministry of Transport and Aviation under the technical direction of the CAA Executive Director, Moses Christopher Bawoh and the General Manager of the Freetown International Airport Ebenezer Macauley took a proactive step. We identified where the problems are and we realized that one of the problems was our own internal charges – the landing cost for aircrafts was high. So we reduced our own internal costs by 34% and we went further to encourage other operators (security, air transport handlers) to further reduce their own costs. We went further and negotiated with the Ministry of Finance to see reason why in the aviation industry the GST should not be added because that would just add extra burden. I’m pleased here to say that in the 2020 Budget, the Ministry of Finance graciously through the Financial Secretary who understood our position as was laid to them obliged and now we have no more GST in aviation-related issues.”
Responding to allegations that despite this reduction, air fares are still expensive, he said: “When we talk in a ministry such as ours where you are assessed not only internally but internationally as well by accredited international bodies such as ICAO, we talk to facts and figures. Because when you say you reduce, you don’t just say it verbally, you have to inform the accredited international organizations such as IATA (International Air Transport) organization that would now embed that into the calculation of the air fare.”
In response to the cost of air tickets compared to our neighboring countries, Mr. Sillah said that what happens in the aviation industry is not a one-off thing. He maintained that they realized that Sierra Leone as a nation had never operated the buying and selling of tickets on the BSP (Bill and Settlement Plan) platform. The BSP is a global platform that results to Bill and Settlement Plan.
“If you buy your ticket even here in Sierra Leone; at the tail end of it you’ll realize that the ticket might have originated from Lebanon simply because Lebanon is on the BSP platform. The BSP platform enables you to buy your own ticket directly on the global platform with global competitiveness. When you are on the BSP you have eliminated any third party when buying your ticket. Traveling agencies still exist but with the BSP platform everybody including them (traveling agencies) does their transaction through BSP. And so the next step is by January next year…no more 15% charge on aviation related services and by next January the price of air tickets will drop.”
He went further to state that they realize that when people (middleman) sell tickets they sometimes even double the price. “The big advantage of the BSP is that it cuts off such practice,” Mr. Sillah said.
According to Mr. Sillah, “our own strategy is not to be casting blame because we are now in charge.” He went on to state that apart from the Agriculture Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (formally or informally) is the second highest employer in this nation,” adding that of all the modes of transportation, eighty percent is on land and that the government is doing all in its power to ensure that this sector is made to be sustainable and safe for the people of this country.