By Momodou Darboe
A Covid-19 impact assessment conducted by the ministry of finance has hinted that The Gambia may experience a D3 billion revenue decline if the pandemic does not drastically subdue towards the end of the year, so said the minister of finance.
Finance minister Mambury Njie was on Wednesday at the National Assembly in Banjul where he submitted for consideration and approval by the legislature the Supplementary Appropriation Bill for fiscal year 2020.
The focus of the bill, according to Finance Minister Njie, is to cater to costs arising from the need to combat the Covid-19 pandemic as well as other essential and budgetary needs directly linked to the outbreak.
He informed the assembly that The Gambia continues to feel the adverse social and economic effects of the Covid-19 crisis, disclosing that a rapid assessment conducted by his ministry has suggested that the economic growth in the country will be 5.8 % lower than the initial 6.3% at the beginning of the year.
“The decline in economic growth is estimated to emanate from trade remittances, construction, hotels and restaurants. Initial [assessment] indicate growth in the service sector will decline from 3.5% initially estimated to 0.6% with tourism, hotels and restaurants estimated to contract by at least 19.5% from the 4.5% initially projected. As the sector [tourism] with the largest contribution to the GDP, approximately 20% in 2019, its contraction will also substantially affect our growth prospects,” he explained.
The finance minister warned that if the virus continues its global and local spread, the Gambian economy ‘will likely take a stronger hit and possibly enter into recession’.
However the finance minister said despite evidence that Covid-19 has the potential of causing debilitating effects on the social and economic environment in The Gambia, government is committed to steering the economy towards a sustainable path while prioritizing the needs of the citizenry.
“It is, therefore, imperative that the economy must be strong and stable enough to sustain the security of the nation. The government has, therefore, decided to extend its support to the country through the provision of a set of policy response action-plan,” he revealed.
Meanwhile, the finance minister explained to the House that the focus of the supplementary budget approval is covering costs, arising from the need to combat the pandemic as well as other essential and budgetary needs directly related to it.
The appropriation bill, he outlined, seeks to support the tourism sector by waiving D25.6 liabilities owed the Gambia Tourism Board in a form of operational license and various rate fees owed to the various municipalities. It also reportedly factored additional D100 million for the hospitality industry for post-Covid-19, a three-month D121 million bail-out for some public enterprises such as GIA, Gampost and Gambia Ports Authority, D180 million to consolidate the Central Bank balance sheet in a bid to recapitalize it, D435 bail-out to the Gambia Groundnut Corporation, D500 as a fraction of rural roads project, D50 million for the resuscitation of Basse and Brikama markets following fire outbreaks, D15 million for a mausoleum for former President Jawara, D87 million for enhanced electricity generation, D28 million support to stranded Gambian students in various countries and D10 million for consultancy services.