By Alagie Manneh
The Gambian economy has rebounded strongly in 2018 and the future looks bright thanks to sound micro-economic policies and reforms, the Central Bank has stated.
These developments were revealed at a press conference yesterday, after the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) met to assess domestic and international economic and financial developments.
CBG governor Bakary Jammeh said indicators showed private investment has picked up significantly with the return of confidence.
He said: “The Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) estimated the economy to have grown by robust 6.5 percent in 2018 compared to 4.8 percent in 2017. This performance was broad-based, driven mainly by the services sector including tourism and trade, financial services and insurance, transport and telecommunication. Agricultural production recovered from a contraction of 4.4 percent in 2017 to grow by 0.9 percent in 2018.”
However, he said climatic factors such as delayed rainfall, flooding and long dry spells continue to significantly affect crop yields. “Early economic indicators show that growth will remain robust in 2019,” he added.
“In May 2019, stock of domestic debt increased to D31.8 billion (41.9 percent of GDP) from D31.2 billion (39.2 percent of GDP) in the corresponding period a year ago. Stock of Treasury and Sukuk-Al Salaam bills increased by 6.1 percent to D18.4 billion during the period under review from D17.4 billion a year ago.
“The yields on the 91-day treasury bills declined from 5.87 percent at end-April 2018 to 4.73 percent at end-April 2019. In contrast, the 182-day and 364-day Treasury bills increased from 5.93 percent and 9.23 percent to 6.85 percent and 9.51 percent, respectively.”
The external position of the country’s economy continues to improve, governor Jammeh said, thanks to the support from development partners, and increases in remittances, tourism and foreign direct investment.
“Preliminary balance of payments (BoP) estimates indicate that the current account balance registered a surplus of US$4.1 million (0.2 percent of GDP) in the first quarter of 2019 compared to a deficit of US$7.3 million (0.5 percent of GDP) in the corresponding quarter in 2018.
“The surplus in the services account increased by 47.3 percent to US$46.5 million on the first quarter of 2019, compared to US$31.6 million in the corresponding period a year ago, explained largely by the successful tourism season,” he stated.
Governor Jammeh said deficit in the goods account however, widened to US$85.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 compared to US$72.0 million in the corresponding period in 2018. “This is due to the increase in imports to US$125.3 million or by 23.8 percent from US$101.2 million in the same period in 2018. Exports also increased to US$35.8 million or by 45.3 percent during the period under review,” he told reporters.
The governor said the country’s growth by 6.5 percent is high by any standard. “If we sustain this for the next ten years, the impact will show on the ordinary people. It is important we sustain this growth. If we do that, in the next decade or two, this country is going to be different and poverty will be significantly reduced. In fact, our definition of poverty is going to change.”
The governor said new banknotes printed for the country are ready and will “soon be in circulation”.
Karamo Jawara, director of banking, said The Gambia demanded for a “durable, cost-effective and a secured” currency during negotiations.
He explained the motive behind the need to come up with new banknotes. “We felt that we need to enhance durability of our notes, improve its security and renegotiate its cost.”
He said public opinion also greatly pushed the country’s apex bank to come up with new notes, following clamouring calls for the former president’s face to be removed from the nation’s currency.