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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Letters to the Editor

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A cup of tea for Mr. President; mayors/chairpersons

Dear Mr. President,

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I first join you in congratulating the newly elected Mayors and Chairpersons in the eight regional councils. Undoubtedly, the hope and confidence bestowed on you by Gambians can’t be overemphasized. Therefore, it requires a lot of work and commitment in fulfilling your campaign promises for the betterment of our beloved nation, The Gambia.

However, these officers (Mayors/Chairpersons) are derailed and curtailed by some statutes that dictate their works, be it the Local Government Act or its revised one. Sir, most of the time, they’re controlled by the Minister of Local Government & Lands concerning certain plans of theirs. This means they’ll surely dance to the tune of the government, be it evil or good. So, their independence is shackled! Also, the financial support given to the Mayors/Chairpersons does not commensurate their corresponding duties. Sir, 25% is too minute an allocation from the central government to address the daunting task that lies ahead of these public servants and will not help in anyway.

The denizens in these regions need better education, good roads, standardized markets and many more facilities; hence, the 25% given will not be able help in facilitating all these for a better community. In addition, there is need for digitalization. The KMC, BCC or any other municipality leaves much to be desired when it comes to technology. This has led them not to collect enough or the supposed rates/taxes from the inhabitants of their areas. As a result, the 40% that should go to the state and the 60% that goes to these municipalities or regions are diminished. This affects our economy as a country and makes us economically paralyzed.

That being the case Mr. President, it is necessary that your government puts in place efficient plans that would help in remedying the above pressing issues. This could be done as follows:
1. Mayors should be given much freedom to execute their policies because consulting the Minister of Local Government & Lands can be an impediment. They might not understand the plans of these Mayors/Chairpersons or even bade on political affiliations, such plans might be squashed. This drives our nation aback and put us at a big halt.

2. Importantly, the central government should try by all means to increase the 25% of state budget to these officers to develop their communities. Since they will spend the money judiciously in building better facilities that will be friendly to boost our economy. It is because they are the money-making machine for any developed nations. However, there could be proper checks and balances for judicious and productive spending.

3. Lastly, more well-trained Human Resources should be decentralized to these municipalities or regions for the digitalization of the collection of rates/taxes. This will aid in tackling corruption and bribery. It will yield more productivity and push for our nation’s development, since rates will be paid and it will go directly to our state’s coffers correctly.

To sum up, I respectfully put it to you, Mr. President – to work hand in glove with these Mayors/Chairpersons for a progressive Gambia. This is due to the reason that they have an immediate impact on their municipalities or regions which makes them instrumental for nation-building. It is with a strong belief that once this is done, we will have a much better and stronger Gambia; most especially the new Gambia you’re championing will become a reality.
Have a good day sir, enjoy your tea!

Muhamed Lamin Ceesay
University of The Gambia

Who is benefiting from the tax cuts?

Dear editor,

In the beginning of the year 2018, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs presented the budget to the National Assembly. In that budget, there were tax cuts on many goods and services especially on basic commodities like rice, sugar, oil and other things. One would have expected that after some time therefore, the cost of these items will reduce drastically.

However, five months on, the cost of living is still the same, if it has not risen. The cost of basic commodities has been going up almost daily especially during this Holy Month of Ramadan. Just take the cost of potato for instance. A little before Ramadan it was D350 per bag and now – four days into Ramadan – it is D800. The cost of rice, sugar, oil and all basic needs are as high as they were before the tax cuts, or even higher.

I am not an Economist, nor am I an expert on trade; but, I am a consumer, I am a family head and most importantly, I am a citizen. And these identities have taught me a lesson that there is a direct connection between taxes and the cost of goods and services. If taxes go up, cost of goods and services will go up. It follows therefore that when taxes are reduced, the cost of goods and services should come down.

What is happening in The Gambia is that whereas the government has sought to reduce the taxes in order to ease the burden on citizens, the tax cut has not benefitted the consumers at all. The tax cut is going into the pockets of the businessmen and women who are still selling commodities the same way they did before they had the tax reduction. This means that the difference is going to those businessmen or women, many of whom incidentally, are foreigners.

Imagine even if a mere five dalais is removed from the tax levied on the importation of each bag of rice. The number of tons of rice that is imported is such that this tax cut will run into millions of dalasis. If after all that the cost of rice in the market is still the same – the poor are still struggling with it – then someone or some people are ripping us off and taking it to their countries, and the Gambia being poorer.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is either not doing its job or someone there is corrupt and benefitting illegally from this to the detriment of the nation. If the minister does not have the expertise to solve these problems, then she should resign and give way to others who will do what is necessary. The minister should know where the hitch is, why is the tax cut not benefitting the nation? If she cannot, then sack her and appoint a competent person.

The masses are suffering and need action from you immediately.

Musa Bah
Nusrat SSS

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