By Mustapha Jallow
Tax collection is pristine to Gambia’s development landscape, that’s why the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) is striving so hard in shaping a Gambian success story via revenue collection, which they collected D12.7 billion last year (2022) and now targeting D15.2 billion in 2023 on revenue collection.
Yankuba Darboe, the Commissioner General for GRA, who doubled as chairman of the West African Tax Administration Forum (WATAF) announced these on Friday, 6th January 2023, at his office in Banjul – during an interview with local reporters. In 2022, GRA was asked to collect D13.5 billion, which they did collected over D14.7 billion but due to a global crisis (Russia and Ukraine war) – actual receipts were less due to subsidies and duty waivers by the government.
Darboe described 2022 as a very difficult and challenging year for them. He lamented how the COVID-19 and Russia-Ukraine war has made life very difficult for the country. First, he added they realised that the freight charges internationally has increased on containers and other goods that come into the country, saying that it has a direct effect to the importers because, if the freight charges increase the Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) values will also increase.
According to him, the war has also impacted on the importation of certain goods from Ukraine, adding that there were lesser goods and that means lesser collection.
“But luckily, we decided to intensive our domestic revenue mobilisation, which ended up pay dividend. The target that was set for us was D13.5 billion but due to the war between Russia and Ukraine – that hits the fuel, it (fuel) rose up, which has affected the price structures. It has also affected the revenue collection and the government took over D1.6 billion on subsidies because the government realised that they cannot leave the citizens with the prices of fuel,’’ explained GRA boss.
“That D1.6 BILLION was taken from our collection. We have over D2 billion that has gone as duty waivers because of our developments that are going on,’’ he says. “Those are monies that were part of collection and it has a negative impact on our collection. On duty waiver, the government also gives up about D2 billion because there was duty waivers for some of the road construction like the OIC Roads. That also affected our collection because we were not allowed to tax them,’’ he added.
“So, we have about D3.6 billion taken by government on subsidies and duty waivers. We hope and pray that 2023 will be better. We have already set ourselves a target for 2023 and which is D15.2 billion depending on the circumstances, we should be able to collect that amount,’’ Darboe strongly believed.
Meanwhile, the GRA head thanked his entire staff for been supportive and proactive in achieving the goals set by the authority.
“I always have regular meetings with them (staff) to ensure that we all stay in one page to achieve whatever we want to achieve together. I also want to thank the tax payers because without them we would not achieve our target,’’ he further thanked.
Darboe says even the richest man on earth doesn’t want to make way with money but they have sacrificed to pay their taxes to support the running of government.
“Every year, we try to improve on our system, so we were able to collect what we collected because of the ASYCUDA World, which is a digital platform. But the government cannot continue to give away billions on the basis of subsidies and duty waivers. This is seriously affecting the economy. Yes, fuel is relatively cheaper in Senegal but you cannot compare the two countries because the shock Senegal can take, Gambia cannot take that. With the new system there has been a lot of changes in systems,’’ stressed GRA head.
He continued: “We have just completed working with ECOWAS on the Segmat because we have a lot of trading within the sub-region. We are trying to get a new system called ITAC and the World Bank is supporting that process as management, we are always open to new system that would help us improve our revenue collection.’’
Moreover, Darboe indicated that there are protocols the Gambia has signed with ECOWAS that exempt basic commodities produced in West Africa from paying tax or VAT. He said that is why they are committed to come up with new avenues to help them improve their systems. He added that the authority is also working on systems to monitor local industries to ensure that they record the goods that they provide to avoid leakages.
“We are also bringing a single window that would bring the GRA, Ports and Immigration closely,’’ said GRA head.