Your Excellency, the Vice President,
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,
Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,
Senior Government Officials and Heads of Parastatals,
The Gambia Revenue Authority Board of Directors, Management and Staff,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to be invited as Chief Guest of Honour to grace this very auspicious occasion, for which I thank the organisers.
Without hesitation, therefore, I congratulate the Board and Management of The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) on this brilliant initiative, designed to honour and recognise the most compliant taxpayers in our economy.
As a former businessman, I know how difficult it can be for business entities to pay taxes; as such, GRA deserves commendation for initiating this laudable scheme.
Let me quickly use this opportunity to thank all taxpayers, Gambian nationals and non-nationals alike, especially those in the private sector, for their consistent contribution to national development.
My government recognises and deeply appreciates the role taxpayers play in providing the volume of revenue needed to fund our various development projects across the country.
You may be aware, ladies and gentlemen, that the Banjul Rehabilitation and Hakalang Road Projects, among others, are both fully-funded government projects, using tax revenue. By doing this, we avoided obtaining loans elsewhere.
Because The Gambia is a tax-based economy, we will continually require local funding to implement most of our development projects. In the face of the donor fatigue syndrome, the Government has to look within to address our development challenges.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the economies around the world, including those of donor countries, we can no longer rely on external aid to fund national projects. This makes the GRA Taxpayers’ Award initiative absolutely timely and appropriate.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that, after my inauguration in 2017, we formulated the 2018-2021 National Development Plan (NDP), with a roadmap to jump-start economic growth and transform our society.
Ever since, my government has been exploring and adopting measures to stabilise the economy and improve internal revenue generation.
As a result, domestic revenue mobilisation stands out as a key strategy towards meeting the financing needs for the attainment of the NDP targets.
Reforming tax administration is central to addressing the country’s economic challenges and funding gaps in order to fulfil our development obligations.
To realise this, the Government will continue to provide the required policy environment, the political will and, where feasible, material support for GRA to perform maximally.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to say that Government support to GRA has indeed paid off, as evidenced by the progressive revenue performance of the Authority over the last five years.
Since 2017, revenue figures have grown considerably. We commend the GRA Board, Management and Staff for remaining steadfast, working hard and doing their utmost to mobilise the revenue we so badly need for our national development operations.
The adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area is a positive development, but we project that international trade revenues are likely to decline.
To address the potential shock to the economy, with the support of our development partners, particularly the African Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank, the Government is in the process of digitising our revenue collection systems.
The dual introduction of the ASYCUDA WORLD system for international trade and an Integrated Tax Administration System for domestic taxes marks the beginning of the process.
GRA is championing this cause on behalf of Government. The introduction of the two new systems is a cornerstone of my government’s strategy to expand the country’s tax base.
In light of decreasing international trade revenues, the best option is to prioritise and broaden our domestic revenue base.
It is our hope that the GRA reforms will end revenue leakages, enhance transparency and trust, reduce the compliance burden on taxpayers, and improve administrative efficiency.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, my acceptance to grace this occasion reflects the high regard I have for the private sector and its contribution to our development endeavours. The need to strengthen this partnership for our mutual benefit is obvious.
I warmly congratulate you, the awardees, and urge you to remain compliant. The awards speak volumes of your individual character and reliability; so, we look forward to receiving more taxes from you this financial year.
To those who missed out on today’s awards, I encourage you to continue meeting your tax obligations and wish you better luck next year. As the saying goes, “two things are certain in life, death and paying taxes.” We pray that all businesses in the country continue to flourish.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have noted that this is the fourth (4th) edition of the GRA Taxpayers’ Awards. Looking ahead, the event will form part of my annual calendar of activities.
It is conclusive that the initiative does not only provide a forum for interaction between the taxpayers and the Executive arm of Government, but also promotes and serves as a catalyst for voluntary tax compliance.
I thank the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs for providing the necessary support to GRA in their digitisation drive.
In the same spirit, we thank our development partners, such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the EU and the IMF, for providing the financial support driving the GRA reforms.
Board Chairman, Management and Staff of GRA, once again, I register deep gratitude to you for your invaluable support to my government’s revenue mobilisation efforts.
I wish the Authority the best of luck as you strive to break new grounds and set new revenue collection records in the current financial year. I pledge my government’s fullest support in this venture, as your success is the nation’s success.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for your attention.