By Omar Bah
Ruby EM Randall, the country representative of the International Monetary Fund, has told journalists and partners Tuesday that The Gambia is still at huge risk of debt distress.
Randall was speaking at the launch of the IMF regional economic outlook report at the Atlantic Hotel.
According to the IMF regional economic outlook report, even after rebasing the GDP, Gambia remains a regional outlier with a debt to GDP ratio of 88 percent and its debt service ratios are about four times higher than the regional average.
The Gambia’s debt to GDP ratio was 136% prior to the rebasing by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics, an exercise that shows a rise in the country’s GDP from D49.4 billion in 2013 to D69.5 billion.
The IMF country rep said the country’s adherence to the reform agenda will be critical in its efforts to reduce its debt pile.
Robust growth forecast
She said the economic growth figures for The Gambia are forecast to “remain robust and exceed the regional average if the authorities stay on course with the current reform agenda”.
The regional growth figures are expected to increase to 3.1 and 3.5 percent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In 2017 growth in The Gambia was revised upwards from 3.5 percent to 4.6 percent in 2017, following the GDP rebasing, which broadened the scope of coverage to encompass other dynamic sectors and industries that were previously not captured in the national accounts, said IMF.
Curtailing public spending
The administration of President Adama Barrow has promised a series of reforms to remedy the ills within the economy that they have inherited from former president Yahya Jammeh.
The permanent secretary at the Finance ministry, Lamin Camara, said those cost-cutting measures are still on the table and they are looking into them.
The president announced last week following a cabinet meeting that government plans on saving D1 billion with some stringent cost-cutting measures.
Camara said given the limited resources available in the country, government must take loans to carry out development projects.
About 10% of country’s domestic revenue is left for developmental projects after payment of salaries, debt servicing and others, said Camara.
He said the operations of foreign embassies are particularly putting so much pressure on the country’s little resources.