By Omar Bah
The chief executive officer of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has alleged that former President Yahya Jammeh was not paying taxes for his businesses.
Alieu Secka was speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday at his office in Bijilo.
“The previous president was engaged in business, in almost all the sectors, but apart from engaging in these various sectors there was also an unlevelled playing field in the sense that he was not paying taxes,” he said.
Mr Secka, a business manager himself, added that the former president also had free labor and if anyone competed in any area of products that he is in, he could have also seized your business.
He said this played a big role in hindering the progress of businesses in the country for the past 22-years.
“But over the last year, we had the privilege of a free society and free economy where our president as far as we know is not currently active in business.
“As we speak, each business can register and operate freely and the rule of law seems to be prevailing adequately. So circumstances are materially different from what they used to be under the former regime,” he said.
CEO Secka said the private sector is the key partner to development and once there is freedom and peace, the private sector is encouraged to invest more so that people’s living conditions can improve.
“We have that confidence that in the current dispensation, businesses will thrive. Firstly, we have seen the absence of interference in the foreign exchange market in the sense that we have a liberal market so people have the choice and option to buy and sell at will,” he noted.
He said the reduction in borrowing also means there is physical discipline from the new government, which, he said was not the case before.
“The cost of borrowing and interest rate particularly offered on tertiary bills which have a direct bearing on banks borrowing to the private sector has come down drastically to single digit. This allows the private sector to utilize funds that are available in the economy so that we can create more jobs and pay taxes and hold the economy. All this put together will improve the confidence of the private sector,” he said.
He explained that both the private sector and government have priority areas premised on the needs of the Gambian public and the economy as well as potential areas that the country has for development based on resources and inputs.
“Key among this is infrastructure and energy which is the number one challenge because in the absence of energy, industries and businesses cannot operate optimally,” he said
He said given the fact that tourism is also beginning to recover, there is overall positive prospect for growth.
“We also recognise that elsewhere in developing countries the growth rate is about 5.6% and we are pleased now we will be joining the bandwagon. We are hopeful that in the next year or two with more projects coming we can actually grow our economy further than 4%,” he added.
He said since the coming of the new government, there has been huge interest of potential investors making enquiries about business in The Gambia and that many of them, both Gambians and foreign businesses, have already started registering and hopefully some of them will start operating very soon.