GRA boss says gov’t subsidies becoming ‘unsustainable’

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By Omar Bah

The Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority has said the billions of dalasis government forgo in subsidies is becoming unsustainable for the country. This year alone, the government has expended D1.3 billion on fuel subsidies.

But according to GRA boss, Yankuba Darboe in a recent interview with The Standard, government subsidies on fuel and other commodities are becoming unsustainable and the GRA is getting worried.

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“Just this year, from January to August, the government has forgoed D1.3 billion on fuel subsidies. This D1.3 billion should have been collected by the GRA but because the government wants to support the ordinary Gambian to afford basic commodities which are getting very expensive by the day, they are forgoing these monies. But do you think that is sustainable for a small country like The Gambia?” he said.

Commenting on how the GRA would close the gaps created by the fuel subsidies, CG Darboe said they can only hope that the prices of fuel will go down before the end of year.

Debt stress

The Commissioner General said he agrees with the finance minister that the country can no longer rely on loans to fund its budget.

He said the GRA is getting itself ready to mobilise more domestic revenue.

“The Gambia has relied on these international donor organisations for years but the truth is that cannot continue. So, it is high time for African countries to start mobilising revenue locally such that 95% of their budgets will be generated locally because the donors are tired of us.

“It is becoming difficult to access loans more or less grants so as far as the GRA is concerned, we are doing our utmost best to make sure that we live up to expectation as far as revenue collection is concerned because that is the way forward and that is the only way we can shape our destiny as a country. We can no longer depend on foreign aid or loans,” CG Darboe argued.

Asycuda world

Few months ago, the GRA, through funding from African Development Bank, transitioned from the ASYCUDA++ to ASYCUDA World which is a more advanced web-based system.

Commissioner General Darboe said the system is now operating across the country except for the Mandinaring Depot which will be fixed soon. He said the business community is gradually adopting it and it has proven to be reliable and secure.

“The clearing agents who represent the importers are each given a number with a username and password which they can use to log in and do their declaration after collecting the bill of lading, invoices and all related documents,” he said.

He said after the declaration the system automatically tells the importers what they are liable to pay as taxes and also allows them to pay at the banks without needing to come to GRA.

“The system is so reliable and with less human intervention. However, behind the scenes all those documents will come to our staff for them to verify the declarations because once you made the declaration the system will send the information to our staff and if they happen to notice something wrong on your declaration, you will be called and charged that difference and also pay a penalty,” he explained.    

He said the authority has two operating departments; the international trade and domestic taxes.

“The international trade is under the Asycuda while the domestic is under ITAD. The World Bank is funding the ITAD project and we have gone very far – we have done study tours to different countries that are using the system and now we are at the final stage which is recruiting the developers of the system,” he said. He said the ITAD is also web-based and it would be able to interface with the Asycuda World. “They will also be open for other systems such as the Single Widow that will incorporate all businesses. So, we are creating the platform to ensure smooth transactions for businesses,” he said.