Addressing the National Assembly Members during his State of Nation Address on Thursday at the parliament Chambers, Mr. Barrow said the pandemic has dire consequences on The Gambia as a nation especially on the economy and employment.
“The Gambia has been experiencing a slowdown of economic growth due to the reduction of economic activities as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” President Barrow said. “An initial analysis shows that GDP growth rates this year could decline from six per cent (6%) to two per cent (2%).
“The decline in import volumes and economic activities will correspondingly lead to shortfalls in import duties and other tax revenues,” Mr. Barrow said.
As a result, the president said the country is expected to witness a loss in revenue.
“Based on the current situation, an estimated twenty per cent (20%) of expected revenue will be lost.
“The total estimated fiscal impact from the decline in import duties and other tax revenues is 2 billion, three hundred thousand million dalasis (D2.3 billion); that is, 2.4 per cent of GDP.”
“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) projects that the fiscal deficit will widen from 1.5 percent of GDP to 2.1 per cent of GDP.”
Meanwhile the devastating effects of the lockdown imposed by the Barrow government to prevent the spread of the pandemic are there.
The president himself told the deputies the dire consequences of the lockdown.
“A quick assessment conducted by the Ministry in partnership with The Gambia Bureau of Statistics on the labour market, reveals that job loss is estimated at fifty-two thousand, seven hundred and fifty-two (52,752) employed people in both the formal and informal sectors as a result of the lockdown.
“This will worsen the already high unemployment rate of 35.2%, as reported in 2018.”
For this reason, it is hoped that the president will lift the lockdown on economic activities fully to mitigate the wrath of the measure.
An eyewitness confirmed that he saw the ECOMIG soldiers being bundled by the security forces from the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) to the Police Headquarters.
It is reported that the police went to the said area and found the ECOMIG soldiers with some people including women at a birthday party where they were arrested and taken to PIU Headquarters.
A source who is familiar with the matter and spoke to The Point on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the birthday party cake was confiscated by the PIU personnel.
However, an eyewitness said: “At the Police Intervention Unit I was there watching them till they were taken to the Police Headquarters in Banjul.
These people were there and they were in civilian clothes; they were not even dressed as soldiers at the time of the arrest.
The eyewitness who could not ascertain the exact number believes there were quite a dozen.
It's more than 10 people; the girls alone are 10 or more not to talk about the ECOMIG.
It is believed that the arrested soldiers are Senegalese nationals.
Police Spokesperson Superintendent Lamin Njie confirmed the incident but gave a lesser number of ECOMIG soldiers involved than the eyewitness’ account.
“On the 16th of September, 2020, our officers on patrol got a tip off about certain individuals throwing up a birthday party at Bijilo thereby violating the regulations,” the police spokesperson said. “The team arrived at the venue where they found a crowd attending a birthday pool party.”
He continued: “Individuals were arrested together with the proprietor of the venue.
“Among the arrested people, two individuals identified themselves as members of the Senegalese ECOMIG Contingent.
“They are all being processed for appropriate actions,” he said.
President Adama Barrow in August 2020 imposed a night curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for 21 days throughout the Gambia to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Many Gambians have been fined for violation of the emergency regulation.
And many are calling on the authorities to ensure there is no exception in serving justice.
“Equally, all markets throughout The Gambia, regardless of the category of goods they sell, shall now open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily to allow for normal cleansing. Boutiques, food and non-essential vendors and supermarkets shall now resume their normal business hours.”
“However, the Public Health (DANGEROUS INFECTIOUS DISEASES) PROTECTION REGULATIONS, 2020 remain effective and all non-essential PUBLIC PLACES remain temporarily closed.
In this Order, Non-Essential Public Places include —
(a) Bars and pubs;
(b) Sit-in restaurants;
(c) Cinemas and video clubs;
(e) Night clubs and music lounges;
(f) Group events at beaches;
(g) Casinos and gaming parlours; and
(h) Sporting fields.”
“Similarly, the Prohibition of public gatherings is still in effect and the following are prohibited:—
(a) Public gatherings for events such as naming ceremonies, weddings and other social events; and (b) Children roaming the streets unaccompanied by an adult.
Violation of this Order
A person who violates this Order commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one thousand Dalasis.
All other Regulations on the compulsory wearing of facemasks, closure of air, sea and land borders of The Gambia and penalties for spreading false information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also remain in place.”
In a media dispatch sent to The Point, GRA clarified that the incident happened at the office of the Deputy Commissioner General and Head of Domestic Taxes, Mr. Essa Jallow last week Thursday but the case involved no money.
The Authority confirms that only a computer, a TV set and a safe box with personal effects were taken away.
Below reads the full of the Authority’s release
“It has come to the notice of the GRA Management that certain media outlets have been reporting a story of a burglary and theft at the office of the Deputy Commissioner General and Head of Domestic Taxes Department leading to millions of taxpayer’s monies taken away together with other office equipment.
First and foremost, we want to salute the efforts of the media in the new Gambia in trying to keep the public well informed and helping the citizenry hold government to account. These efforts are by no means insignificant in helping us strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country. We want to clarify certain statements made by the media for the interest of accurate reporting and to keep the public properly informed on this matter.
We want to inform the general public that the GRA is established by an Act of the National Assembly in 2004 and has structures and checks and balances to ensure full accountability and transparency in its operations.
Moving to the subject matter, GRA wishes to confirm that the incident of the burglary and theft at the office of the Deputy Commissioner General did take place on Thursday night, 10th September 2020. The incident was discovered the following day on Friday, 11th September 2020, when the Deputy Commissioner General reported to work in the morning and found his office upside down.
GRA can confirm that office equipment installed in the office and a safe for keeping office items were taken away. We want to clarify that the safe is not for keeping state funds as no revenue collection responsibilities are assigned to that office. GRA can confirm that the matter was reported to the Inspector General of Police who immediately dispatched police officers from the Crime Management Unit of the Gambia Police Force who visited the office, collected evidence and opened an investigation into the matter. The matter is now under police investigation and so we will not be pushed into any making speculation on the matter as the right government agency is doing its work on the matter.
GRA wishes to clarify that the office of the Deputy Commissioner General is not a revenue collection office neither is it an office for the safekeeping of revenues collected under the revenue laws administered by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA). Under the current structure of the GRA, revenue departments perform only tax administration functions and the responsibility to collect the revenues and carryout daily banking is handled by the Department of Finance and Accounting. All revenues collected are banked daily in line with the GRA Act, 2004. In addition to the collection and banking of revenues, there is an Internal Audit Department to ensure that all checks and balances are implemented in line with the relevant laws and procedures. The entire operations of the Authority are subjected to both internal and external audits and the submission of audited accounts and activity reports to the National Assembly. It should be of interest for the public to know that GRA has implemented many reforms aimed at bringing efficiency, effectiveness and best practices in tax administration. These include:
- As per the Central Bank regulations in place, all cash payments above hundred thousand dalasis can only be made through the commercial banks and not to GRA cashiers;
- Through the Real Time Gross Settlement payment system, taxpayers usually issue payment advise to their commercial banks to make payments of tax on their behalf by making direct transfers from their accounts to the GRA revenue collection accounts at the Central Bank of The Gambia;
- GRA has entered into Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with most of the commercial banks in the country. Through these MoUs, the Authority deployed its IT systems, namely the GamTaxNet and ASYCUDA++ to the partner banks allowing their customers to make tax and customs payments at the banks. The banks are enabled with these systems to collect revenues on behalf of GRA, issue payment receipts to taxpayers and transfer all funds to the GRA revenue collection accounts at the Central Bank of The Gambia.
The reforms undertaken in the area of revenue collection and banking by GRA and the Central Bank has ensured that very limited revenue collection and cash handling activities take place in the GRA offices.
In conclusion, we want to thank the media for partnering with the national revenue collection agency in our sensitisation and education programs geared towards national development. While GRA desists from making comments during the investigation of this matter, we kindly urge the general public to provide any information that will assist the Police in their investigations. In the same vein, we want the media to be responsible and hold itself to account by desisting from misinformation and sensational journalism. The GRA Management is surprised that the on-line media who have worked on this story made no attempts to corroborate their information with statements from GRA.”
It is widely speculated that the president may use the pandemic to his advantage and delay both the presidential and constitutional referendum elections next year which raised concerns among some Gambians.
But Mr. Barrow for the first time has publicly assured Gambians that important national events will hold.
“I assure all Gambians that my government is determined that the general elections will be conducted in 2021, as scheduled.”
According to President Barrow, the determination to hold the general elections in the scheduled time is driven by national interest superseding selfish interest.
He continued: “My conviction is that, whatever our position or belief may be, we should always concede to the national interest, and forego selfishness.”
According to the Independent Electoral Commission 2021-23 electoral year released in July 2020, the Presidential election is scheduled for 4 December 2021 and the Constitutional Referendum 6 months earlier, that is 5 June 2021.
President Barrow tabled the Draft Constitution through the Justice Ministry after the presidential review of the draft law without omitting any clause despite fears he would, especially the presidential two term limit of 10 years which affects his current term.
The assurance to the people publicly that the general elections will hold in 2021 as planned – is a sigh of relief for many according to a political analyst.
This was according to the 146th national situation report since the confirmation of the first case of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in The Gambia, on the 16th March 2020.
No new COVID-19 related death is registered while 144 new COVID-19 patients recovered and got discharged.
No new person was taken into quarantine, with no new persons also discharged.
The country currently has 1 person in quarantine, 1,415 active cases, 433 probable cases and a crude case-fatality ratio of 3.1%.
Meanwhile, the Senegalese Armed Forces Ministry issued a communique which states 208 army personnel who were on overseas mission and returned home have tested positive for covid-19.
The ministry of health reported yesterday that 50 tested positive in Senegal, bringing the total number to 14,618 positive cases, 10,923 recovered, 300 deaths and 3, 394 under treatment.
In his State of the Nation Address for the opening of the 2020 Legislative Year at the National Assembly on Thursday 17 September, the President of Republic of The Gambia and commander-in-chief of the Gambia Armed Forces, His Excellency Adama Barrow has disclosed another important avenue where the creative industries can benefit from.
President Barrow in delivering his statement said he was happy to inform the creative industries that the Periodic Report on the UNESCO 2008 Convention on Cultural Expressions signed by The Gambia in 2011 was adopted.
This report “was adopted by the UNESCO sub-committee on the Convention,” he said and this means that “the door is now open for The Gambia creative industries to benefit from the UNESCO International Fund for Cultural Diversity,” President Barrow disclosed.
His Excellency Adama Barrow went on that since the change of government in 2017, the arts and culture subsectors have been boosted in relation to participation and investment.
According to him, in the year under review, the National Centre for Arts and Culture benefitted from and successfully executed a grant from the UNESCO Country participation programme to train twenty-four (24) Gambian youths on entrepreneurship in the creative industries.
In addition to that, President Barrow added that through the European Union funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), a three-year project on Youth and the Creative Industries was launched to facilitate capacity building and funding for youths who are active in the media arts, fashion, music and audio-visual enterprises.
The president, however, disclosed that his government’s policy to promote rural and eco-tourism are underway to construct a forty-bedroom four-star Eco-Lodge at Fort Bullen on the North Bank.
“This will be the first of its kind in rural Gambia. The Gambia Tourism Board intends to construct four similar facilities in each region. These facilities are expected to create job opportunities to the rural youth and trigger in-country tourism,” he assured.
He went on that when all these programmes are linked with those mentioned earlier it will become evident that “the government is serious about addressing the plight of our youth, especially by reducing unemployment.”
The president therefore encouraged youth to make the most of these opportunities.