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Ecowas tells governments dependence on external aid not sustainable

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By Omar Bah

The Economic Community of West African States has urged governments in the region to strategise internal revenue mobilisation to avoid high dependence on international funding. 

The Ecowas President, Dr Omar Touray, in a statement read on his behalf by Ecowas Gambia rep, Miatta Lily French at a regional professional tax conference, said the outbreak of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war have made it abundantly clear that high dependence on external sources of income is not tenable. “Governments therefore need new strategies to enhance internal revenue collections in order to fulfil their obligations, not the least being the payment of community levy to Ecowas,” he said.

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The Ecowas president was addressing tax administrators and experts from The Gambia, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania and Liberia who have gathered in Banjul for the 9th International Tax Conference of the West African Union of Tax Institutes (WAUTI).

The conference will serve as an information and experience sharing forum that would create an opportunity to critically analyse the roles and responsibilities of all the relevant stakeholders involved in the process of taxation in the Ecowas region.

Mr Touray said the theme falls in line with the Ecowas vision 2050 and strategic objective of inclusive and sustainable development.

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He reiterated Ecowas’ commitment to continue its support to the West African Union Tax Institute in achieving its objectives. He added that progressive taxation plays an important role in ensuring the equitable sharing of wealth, saying government expenditures funded by taxation are essential to guaranteeing access to basic services to all including the poor and disadvantaged groups that face discrimination. 

 The Minister of Finance, Seedy Keita, said the regional conference is crucial to provide the needed synergies for knowledge exchange and networking in the region. He said to convert the adverse effects caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, public policy should focus on mobilising tax revenue and rationalising public expenditures to reduce debt vulnerability and build resilience and growth.  

Minister Keita said the tax administrations in West Africa should aim at broadening the tax base and not increasing the tax burden in a drive to increase domestic tax mobilisation.

“As low-income country, The Gambia and other regional countries suffer from large infrastructure deficits and public expenditure in infrastructure must be carried out to improve the factors of growth in order to support revenue performance and resilience. It is important to ensure public investments do not further worsen the vulnerabilities in an already tied fiscal space characterised by low performance of international revenues from taxation,” he added.

For his part, the GRA Commissioner General and WATAF chairman, Yankuba Darboe, expressed the authority’s delight in hosting the conference. He argued that while taxes are very crucial for every country’s development, the way and manner of tax administration could have a significant impact on society. He said a tax system that is overly burdensome or unfair can hold back growth and affect human development.

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