By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The parliamentary Economy, Finance and Commerce-PEF&C has approved the $10 airport levy charged on every passenger flying into or out the country.
The PEF&C has forwarded to the House of Representatives the Airport Tax and Security Law after making a number of amendments from the original draft submitted by the ministry of aviation last week.
The amended Airport Tax and Security law were read to the house by the Chairperson of the Economy, Finance and Commerce committee Hon Mohamed Mahmud Omar Hashi who informed that all passengers above 15 years of age will have to pay a mandatory airport levy of $10, both on entry and departure.
The Honourable member also informed that the PEF&C amendments include stipulations which dictate that only the relevant arm of the ministry of finance has authority to collect any taxes at the country’s airports as opposed to earlier methodologies that saw a private company undertake the collection.
The House of Representatives which is the country’s lower chamber of parliament will now enter full debate on the bill and on approval forwarded to Guurti, the upper chamber which upon approval will forward to the president for signature thus become law.
Passengers of all ages entering or leaving the country through the two international airports of Berbera and Egal have been paying the tax for the last two years an anomaly decried by the house during last week’s grilling of Aviation minister Hon Mahmud Hashi Abdi.
The ambiguity surrounding the hitherto not legal levy which has been collected for almost two years is still unanswered even though the house is about to make it legal.
The ambiguities emanate from facts presented to the legislature by the minister of aviation who upon queries as per the tax informed that the collection is undertaken by the National Airport Services and handling agency-NASHA which a private company is providing services at the airports.
While the government has the authority over all services and tax collection at the airports The PEF&C amended bill gives the Aviation ministry authority to delegated the services to any entity it deems fit for the duty.
The airport tax and security law also gives the Auditor General authority to undertake audit activities as and when necessary.
Despite the lapse in legalizing the $10 levied on passengers for almost two years, the minister of Aviation Hon Mahmud Hashi is to be commended for his performance that have seen a major facelift of the country’s international airports.
Of note is the acquisition and installation of automated baggage and person search tools that have negated earlier embarrassment visited upon passengers through physical bodily searches.
Apart from negating the embarrassment of having your body patted and luggage perused by strangers the automated machines have also reduced, dramatically, the long hours spent in airport queues.