By Aji Fatou Faal
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs has disclosed that for the first nine months of 2017, total budget support and concessional loans inflow increased substantially, with grants inflows amounting to US$55.44 million on account of World Bank and EU support.
Hon. Amadou Sanneh made this revelation Monday before the legislators when responding to the question posed by Hon. Alhagie Drammeh, NAM for Jeshwang who him the factors responsible for the impressive and significant increase in the import cover from three weeks to over four months within this period.
He added that from January 2017, the confidence in doing business with the new government has improved drastically thus leading to re-establishment of bilateral ties with EU, China and other donors. In addition, he further revealed that foreign currency inflows of government (gateway proceeds, Mineral mining proceeds, etc) that were previously diverted by the former government started hitting government accounts thus generating additional foreign currency thereby improving government reserve position.
This together with the large budget and project support inflows led to the impressive position of their import cover to more than four months in 2017 from a precariously low level of less than 2 weeks cover by end 2016, he said.
For his part, Hon. Dembo KM. Camara, NAM for Illiassa questioned the minister whether there are any plans for the Gambia government to bail out the country from being a tax-based economy.
He responded that the Ministry in collaboration with GRA is currently working on tax rationalization plan that would seek to reduce the multiplicity of taxes but also reduce tax rate on certain goods and products in order to spur investment and growth.
“On transforming the Gambia from a tax based economy, from January 2017, the current government has made efforts to redirect resources that were previously siphoned by the former president. Efforts at diversifying the domestic resources base will continue in the coming fiscal years,” he stated.
Hon. Ndey Yassin Secka, Nominated Member asked raised concern over the hike in rent and asked whether the government is considering setting up strong rent control policy /mechanism in the Gambia.
Finance Minister referred the lawmakers to the lands ministry which directly deals with such.
Hon. Alhagie Sankung Jammeh, NAM for Jarrol asked the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs to clear their doubts on the issue of Fiat Pick-up allocated to NAM.
He inquired whether the Pick-ups are owned by the NAMs, if yes what are modalities of ownership and who bought the fifty-seven Pick- ups for the NAMS.
Hon. Sanneh also informed them that the vehicles were not purchased from government funds and the question should be directed to the office of the president to clarify.
Hon. Halifa Sallah, NAM for Serekunda enquired the sum received as loan grants since the assumption of office by the current government, the sources and sum absorbed so far.