By Tabora Bojang
Bai Lamin Jobe, the Minister of Works, construction, and infrastructure has contended that the infrastructure deficit of the Banjul port is a big challenge hampering the institution. Minister Jobe made these remarks in Banjul on Friday at the presentation of a D50 million-dividend payment by Gambia Ports Authority to the Gambia government for 2019.
The payment follows windfall profits of about D 200 million made by the Authority during the year under review, 20% of which should be handed over as dividend to the shareholder [government].
Addressing the event, the minister under whose purview the GPA operates, described the payment as “interesting” saying it was achieved despite challenges of congestion at the ports and the dilapidated nature of its facilities
“These challenges are real and they can be controlled. The point in saying this is to appeal to the Ministry of Finance to assist the GPA to meet the challenges, especially the challenges of the deficit in their infrastructure, which have been on the table for the past five years.
“We were almost there [commence infrastructural changes] with AFC but we could not continue because of pressures from our external partners. I am not a finance person but I believe if a country decides on doing something that was agreed on a gate plan, I don’t think we should leave it to anybody to decide for us,” the minister bemoaned.
Jobe challenged his counterpart Mambury Njie, the Minister of Finance to ensure “these interests are affected in the parliament and the cabinet.”
Responding, Minister Njie said the government recognised the reform strategies of the ports to improve their technical and financial capacity.
“But sometimes government looks at cost benefit analysis and, in this case, what happened is that as we proceeded to finalise the AFC financing agreement, we realised that we have concessional financing combined with the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank and the grant component is huge. So, we cannot ignore it. One thing I can guarantee is that the timeline which was agreed is still achievable because the government is willing and ready to come on board if there is a financing gap, where we can provide bridge financing,” Njie added.
He disclosed that the GPA has been one of the only State-Owned Enterprises to be able to “contribute expected revenue in the amount of D50 million” after government factored into the national budget dividend revenue line-ups expected from the State-Owned Enterprises to be directed to provisions of basic service to citizens which are not recorded in the budget.
“This [dividend] will greatly assist the government in executing the budget based on planned revenue and planned expenditure,” he concluded.