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Sunday, May 16, 2021

NO MONEY YET FOR DIASPORA VOTING – Finance Minister

By Tabora Bojang

The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs has said the participation of Gambians in the diaspora in the upcoming elections will require a supplementary appropriation because as it stands, “diaspora voting is not budgeted in the 2021estimates.

 “In fact, such supplementary appropriation will be subjected to borrowing because right now, we don’t have the funds,” Mambury Njie said as he presented a position paper before the National Assembly joint committees on human rights, constitutional matters and local government tasked to engage stakeholders on the Elections Bill.

He disclosed that his ministry has already disbursed over D120 million to the Independent Electoral Commission to cover the election operations.

“Section 14 of the Elections Bill, which is the registration of Gambians living abroad, might also have budgetary implications. This section not only deals with the registration of Gambians abroad but it is also availing them with the opportunity to vote in the elections. However, if the authorities want to proceed with this and it is not factored in the IEC budget, then we will have to consider a supplementary appropriation,” minister Njie told deputies.

Tax waiver for political parties, candidates

Commenting on Section 87 of the Elections Bill which calls for tax waivers on customs duties for candidates or political parties in respect of importation of election materials subject to the presentation of a certificate of authorization issued by the IEC, the minister in his submission described these sections as “ambiguous” and “run contrary to the Customs Act” which gives powers to the ministry to grant duty waivers.

“Hence, this section of the Elections Bill will contradict the Public Finance Act and it could be subject to abuse because the definition of election campaign material is quite broad,” Mambury Njie said.

The Finance Minister also stated that tax waiver for parties and presidential candidates is “not in line with government’s ongoing reforms to streamline and harmonise tax waivers. We are losing about 5 percent of our GDP due to these waivers and that is a lot of money,” the minister told lawmakers.

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