By Buba Gagigo
In a recent press conference, President Adama Barrow provided insights into the tax adjustments announced by his government, emphasizing that the primary focus is on non-tax revenue rather than the everyday taxes paid by Gambians.
President Barrow highlighted the fiscal challenges, citing a budget deficit and the annual expectation of GMD 3 billion in budget support from partners. He explained, “We have non-tax revenue. This is where we want to look at. Basically, if you look at our budget, there is a deficit in the budget and our partners every year we expect budget support of about GMD 3 billion and non-tax revenue we collect about GMD 5 billion. When I sat down with the Finance Minister, I told him I think we have to look at this non-tax revenue. When I say non-tax revenue, when you are registering your property at the Ministry of Justice, it is not all the time that you go to register a property, maybe lifetime is once. You go and pay D500.
Elaborating on specific instances, the president noted that slight increases in fees for services such as property registration, physical planning charges, document authentication at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and court-related expenses would contribute to national development. He clarified that these are not recurring payments for individuals but rather one-time or infrequent transactions.
“If we say you pay GMD 1000, you are contributing to national development. Whereby the physical planning charged you maybe GMD 300, we say we should increase it to 500. You go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to authenticate your document is free. They say pay D500 for that. These are the taxes we are talking about. These are not taxes that you pay every day. Marriage certificate, you go to the court to pay for summons for D500, we say pay D1000. These are the taxes we are talking about. These are not taxes that you pay all the time, because maybe you might go to court once in your life, or you might not even go to court,” the president said.
President Barrow emphasized that the government’s objective is to reduce reliance on external partners by increasing domestic revenue. He stated, “Generally, what we collect, the assessment is GMD5 billion. If our partners are giving us GMD3 billion, and we increase this year, and we collect GMD10 billion, we might not need our partners, and you think these partners will continue forever? This year, Since January we’re expecting budget support up to now we haven’t received the budget support. Without our taxes, do you think the country will continue to move on? It will not happen. And we want development in this country. We want to build roads. If you want to build roads definitely we have to contribute,” he said.
Addressing concerns about IMF conditions and external influence, the president asserted that the plan is to be self-sufficient and not subject to external conditions. By generating enough revenue domestically, we can fund our budget, build roads, and undertake social projects without external interference.
President Barrow underscored the importance of citizens’ contributions to national development and the tangible benefits that would result from increased tax revenue. He concluded by asserting that these adjustments represent “new areas” and “low-hanging fruits” for bolstering the country’s financial resources.
“You know, when you are running a country, it is just like what we call here locally “asusu”. We put money together, then we benefit from it. This is what we are talking about. When we collect the taxes, we will build the roads; basically, that’s what it is. We pay more. We got quality service, sustainability and also freedom, because obviously, if we can provide enough money for our budget, we don’t need the IMF.
“We don’t need them to contribute. We don’t need them to condition us. Of recent they said we should reduce the speed of our development and capital expenditure. That’s what they said. The 365 kilometers of roads, they say we cannot continue with it, we say no; these are social projects, and we are here to impact on the lives of the people. But if you are not going to change that, What are you going to do? We said now we will create new money. These are new areas, these are low-hanging fruits,” the president said.
These statements were made during a press conference on Wednesday as part of the just-concluded Meet The People Tour.