By Tabora Bojang
The chairman of the National Assembly committee on trade, Muhammed Mahanera has called on the government to scrap the decision to remove the sales tax on rice importation.
The Sandu NAM argued the decision is ineffective and has created unbearable consequences in the lives and livelihoods of Gambians.
The government cut taxes on the importation of rice in 2018 following parliamentary approval in a move meant to provide relief for Gambian households.
But according to Mahanera, the decision has failed to make any drastic impact on the cost of living and instead, provided lucrative opportunities for rice importers at the expense of average Gambians as the cost of food commodities continues to hike.
The trade committee chairman was speaking to The Standard yesterday following a visit to the Gambia Ports Authority by a team of parliamentarians, who had discussions with different actors at the Ports to “get first hand information” to address public concerns on the prices of food commodities.
“When we removed the 10 percent tax on rice imports, we did so because we want the field to be competitive and the price of rice to be stable but it has not helped, neither paid any dividend. I think we either act and bring back the 10 percent tax or we make sure there is no re-export from here to other countries,” he said.
The Sandu NAM further argued that even though taxes were not waived for the importers of other commodities, the price of sugar continues to remain stable while the “price of rice is soaring up despite tax-free.”
“As a result, many people are now venturing into the importation of rice because it is tax-free and this is putting a lot of pressure on average Gambians.”
Mahanera also added that his committee has learnt during its discussions with the Port actors that the Gambia government has set a revenue ceiling for GRA to collect over D12.8 billion compared to D10.1 billion for the previous year.
“So, the government’s intention has also contributed to the increase of basic food commodities because there is no magic for them to print money; they just have to increase the collection.”
He said among the challenges heard by the committee during the visits were the “bureaucracy” among the different players at the ports, structural problems, lack of space, and delays in container processing.