By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow announced yesterday that his government has decided to defer the tax returns of over 200, 000 businesses for 2019 from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter as part of measures to help them sustain their businesses.
The Gambian leader made this pronouncement while launching his government’s Covid-19 food bank at the McCarty Square in Banjul.
“We are aware that about 200,000 people are engaged in the retail and service sectors. To support this important business community, the tax returns for 2019 have been deferred from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter. In addition, there are ongoing reviews to tease out possibilities to further support Small and Medium Scale,” he said.
On the much talked about food bank, Barrow said he is encouraged by the support communities continue to receive from the public, the private sector, individuals, civil society groups, municipalities, politicians, friends of The Gambia and National Assembly members who have committed themselves to the fight against Covid-19 in their own ways.
The Gambian leader said balancing health and socio-economic responses to the coronavirus pandemic has continued to be a daunting challenge.
“Nevertheless, we must weather the storm and, in the process, make tough decisions, such as the declaration of the state of emergency. I thank the National Assembly Members for their cooperation in this venture. All these interventions demonstrate our depth of understanding, compassion and unity in times of adversity,” he added.
He said although his government recognises the urgency to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, “We are mindful of the need for professional responses to both the growing health and economic crisis arising from it.”
“I am pleased to disclose that, together with the World Bank, we have acquired US$12 Million worth of equipment for the Ministry of Health. The items, which include Personnel Protective Equipment, digital x-rays and ventilators, are being transported to The Gambia from the Republic of Turkey,” he said.
He said the government being conscious of the difficulties that confront many Gambian households, has devised strict measures to ensure that the country’s food stock is secure.
“I am informed by the Ministry of Trade that supplies of rice, sugar, flour and other food items are available. Let me emphasise that under the emergency powers, strict regulations are in place to make sure that people hiking prices, hoarding or attempting to smuggle food items outside the country are brought to book,” he assured.
He said the government is aware that about D200,000 people are engaged in the retail and service sectors.
The Gambian leader revealed that over D734,254,864 is now available to support 84% deserving households countrywide.
“Such support will include rice, oil and sugar to each of the vulnerable households identified. I must stress that this amount is different from the D500 million already earmarked for the Ministry of Health to upgrade and sufficiently strengthen our health system to address the COVID-19 challenges and beyond,” he said.
He said the government has opened a single financial transaction account to guarantee financial discipline and management of the resources available for the pandemic.
“Also, distributions and monitoring mechanisms have been put in place involving the relevant institutions and local government authorities. Distribution Points have been identified and vouchers will be used to reach the household beneficiaries with the government Food Support,” he said.
He said in line with the pledges made during his nationwide tour last year, 33 ambulances have been procured.
“2000 tonnes of fertilizer are also available to support farmers in the upcoming rainy season and further strengthen our drive for food security,” he noted.