Barrow warns Gambia ‘can no longer rely on external aid’

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By Omar Bah

Addressing a Gambia Revenue Authority, GRA dinner event which saw awards given to winners in different categories, President Adama Barrow told taxpayers the Gambia can “no longer” depend on external aids for its development.  The GRA’s revenue collection has since 2017 grown considerably with authority collecting an unprecedented D12.7 billion in 2021 representing an 8% growth from 2020. The award night was also attended by the Minister of Finance, other government officials, GRA management and staff as well as representatives of a cross-section of taxpaying entities.

The Gambian leader added: “In the face of donor fatigue syndrome and covid-19 devastating effects on economies. We can no longer rely on external aids to fund national projects. The government has to look within to address its development challenges.” He said revenue mobilisation stands “out as his government’s key strategy for meeting the country’s financing needs for the attainment of the NDP targets”.

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“Reforming tax administration is central to addressing the country’s funding gaps. The government will continue to provide the required policy environment and political will for GRA to continue to perform maximum,” Barrow said.

President Barrow said the progressive revenue performance of the GRA is “testament” of the government’s “unflinching” support towards the authority. “Government appreciates the roles you play in providing revenue to fund the country’s developmental projects. He said the Banjul rehabilitation and “Hakalang” road projects among others were fully funded by the government through tax revenue.

The Gambian leader urged the awardees to remain tax compliant because two things are certain in life: “paying tax and death”. He promised to put the GRA award night as part of his annual official calendar.

The GRA Commissioner General Yankuba Darboe commended the president for  honouring their invitation and extolled the country’s taxpayers especially the awardees for their compliance. He said GRA has the needed capacity to boost tax collection saying the authority has about 245 diplomat holders, 141 degree holders, 65 masters in various students, 11 PhD and 6 legal practitioners. Commissioner Darboe said GRA is on the verge of introducing two barges of tax collection systems for custom and domestic taxis collection. He said the new system will enable importers, exporters and clearing agents the opportunity to file their tax returns or fill their tax declaration without visiting GRA offices. “This system will obviously reduce compliance but it will enhance transparency and trust, facilitate trade and improve efficiency,” he said. He said the authority’s capacity and manpower has translated to tremendous growth. “Since we started operation in 2006 the authority has grown its revenue from D2.2 billion to over D12.7 billion in 2021. Registering a growth of over D10 billion within fifteen years, during this period our monthly revenue collection grew from D335 million in 2006 to over D1.1 billion in 2021,” Commissioner Darboe said. This, he added, made GRA among few tax authorities in Africa to register such consistent revenue performance and growth.