With Ala agie Manneh
Madame Vice President, Honorable Ministers, United Nations Resident Rep and Coordinator, Ladies and Gentlemen, all Protocols respectfully observed. Good morning to you all.
The advent of Covid-19 unleashed consequences in its wake; affecting lives and livelihoods; overturning and disrupting social norms.
History has shown that Epidemics have always altered societies, affecting personal relationships, the work of artists and intellectuals, and the natural environment. The Covid-19 like other Pandemics have shown us how our social structures allow diseases to flourish. Every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities and our vulnerability is the low standard of living and poverty of the majority of our people. Therefore the eradication of poverty is our ADAPTIVE Challenge.
Ironically, the pandemic has also created new opportunities for innovation and progressive change, in all areas of human endeavor. This community disease have shown all leaders of the society be it Government, Business or the community that our continued health and well being is mutually inclusive.
Despite the lack of social safety net; insufficient health infrastructural and access to medical services we continue to meet these challenges in a spirit of solidarity between Government, Businesses and the Community.
In objective of This policy implementation Forum I notice two distinct parts to the statement
1-Supporting MSMEs and
2-Promoting MSME formalisation
I hope that they will be treated as distinct and mutually exclusive activities because both are very important even as stand alone agendas.
When I investigated the categorization of MSMEs in the concept note, it refers to all entities employing between 1 and 100 people. This means that we are referring practically to the entire private sector in the Gambia, all Gambians excluding probably Government workers and Bank employees. Therefore this forum is a call to action for a National Social Economic and Technological Reset or NaSET. Both an acronym and the Wollof interpretation Naset.
The speed of the initial wave of the pandemic, blind-sided national governments, private sectors and societies around the world. We all rushed to solve the Public Health problem with a medical solution. The GCCI was quick to understand that covid was a socio-economic problem for Africans and required from all the greatest social solidarity to overcome the ensuing challenges. This forum is timely for its support for the Development of the MSMEs.
MSMEs are not only as agents for development and they are also the key beneficiaries of inclusive development. In the Gambia they are the main drivers of employment, facilitating income generation, poverty eradication and reduction of inequality for the majority of the population, including disadvantaged groups. Please be innovative and don’t straitjacket your solutions to ticking the boxes of international donors and the brittonwood institutions … let’s evolve genuine solutions for the problem is real.
In addition, the MSMEs remain the most important tool to address the opportunities and threat of the youth bulge with potential to employ up-to eighty percent of the population. Also as part of the formalization of the MSMEs we anticipate that this forum would investigate their linkages to value chains and access to markets.
We commend the Gambia Government through its Minister of finance for the efforts to address the constraints of the Private sector in General and the MSMEs in particular. It is encouraging that we have seen in the Budget the fruits of our consultations and engagement during the budgeting calendar. We hope that this partnership faced with an existential threat would continue. As a backdrop to this Forum we have observed the desire to build back better; to undertake adaptive measures in anticipation of a COVID world.
The GCCI welcomes the initiative of this government and the Minister of Trade for taking this highly felt need to explore options for revitalizing the important MSME sector; We thank the Government for an Overall Budget that is very friendly to business,
-We noted the government is not burdening business with their fiscal ambitions the budget proposed A slight 5% increase in revenue projection despite a 13% increase in expenditure
-We noted the RATIONALISATION OF SUBVENTION To Government Agency , representing 23 percent of domestic revenue. More important than even the tax burden these subventions posed it distort competition and act as a disincentive to innovation. We contend that Business is not the business of Governments.
-We noted that in 2019, revenue loss to waivers was D2.5 billion. The GCCI is committed at the Tax Advisory Board to strengthen the proposed TER (Tax Expenditure Reform) but also Tax Administration reforms through benchmarking and information sharing. Tax Payment is also a key determinant of competition, innovation and survival of MSMEs
-We have also noted the reduction in the cost of incorporation and business registration and the elimination of Payroll tax for the informal business and a reduction for the formal sector WE THANK THE MINISTER for this were request by GCCI for they directly goes to the pocket of the workers in the private and informal sector.
The faces of the MSMEs in The Gambia are brave women in the markets, restaurants, Nacos and at the GCCI we really applaud the cash supports to the vulnerable communities. These cash supports indirectly help the MSMEs for people would use it to buy goods and services from their neighborhoods. We encourage the government to adopt this approach rather than sending than the material support from Banjul and big business.
It is also appropriate, that this Forum is taking place at this crucial time of regional integration and Intra-African Trade. However like I said before for the Gambia, the AfCFTA like ECOWAS before it is a purely Senegambia problem, since we have only one neighbor. Gambia is not a landlocked country but it is one of the most isolated countries in the world. It is for this reason among others that the GCCI organized the first Sene-Gambian Economic Forum (SEF2019) at the end of last year with support from UNDP to dialogue on the challenges of Economic Integration and Trade Liberalization.
Government must seriously focus on how to improve trade relations between the two sister republics following years of hostile trade wars and retaliatory border closures, which has adversely affected the economies of both countries.
Thank you all for your kind attention.