By Tabora Bojang
During Monday’s debate on the report of the Public and Finance Committee of the National Assembly on the 2024 budget estimates, several lawmakers expressed concern that the expected increment of tax revenues by 24 percent may come with dire consequences for citizens who may be taxed higher to achieve the revenue targets.
But the finance minister, Seedy Keita, clarified that government will be “very mindful not to impose any increases in tax.
“We wanted to broaden the tax base and ensure whoever is supposed to pay tax pays it. There will be no sacred cows. Can you imagine, we have large companies doing road constructions in this country and they are not paying tax for eight years? We have these records and we are working with them (road contractors) to make sure they comply and we have also noticed that in the energy sector, all the outsourced energy providers are not paying taxes and we will also pursue that area,” Minister Keita averred.
He disclosed that the matter was discussed in cabinet and full endorsement was given to his ministry to pursue revenue collection in these categories.
He said government has also modified the duty waiver mechanisms to ensure it is only issued to entities that are found to be tax compliant.
He continued: “Now if any entity applies for a duty waiver, the first test will be to see if you are tax compliant, example paying withholding tax, VAT and tax on pay as you earn. We also discovered that certain withholding taxes were deducted but they were never surrendered to GRA. The revenue directorate is working to make sure that all withholding taxes that are deducted are surrendered.”
Responding to concerns about Gambia’s mounting debt portfolio, the minister said debt is a huge challenge that requires medium term targets such as stemming the deficit and curtailing expenditure.
“In this budget, we have allocated D7.5 billion from our scarce resources into debt service. This is about a quarter of the budget and more than MoHERST, MoBSE, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Agriculture combined. But these loans are contractual obligations and we cannot renege on them, so it is important that we bring our debt burden down and we will aggressively be pursuing that drive,” he said.