The lawmakers have unanimously considered and adopted the 2016 draft estimates of revenue and expenditure of The Gambia today.
The adoption and consideration of the report was slated to take place on Monday 7 which failed to materialize after the minority leader raised hosts of issues in the draft estimates which required the minister a day to prepare in order to “supply sufficient answers”.
Samba Jallow had requested clarity on issues such as the salaries of the President and the Vice President, money accrued from mining in the country and why the Government has not had budget support from the EU, among others.
In his response, the finance minister, Abdou Colley, refuted claims made by the Samba Jallow that the country has not received budget support from EU in 2015 owing to its human rights records.
“The non-realization of budget support that has been programmed for 2015 has nothing to do with human rights issues…,” Colley argued.
“The EU support that we get is not classified as budget support because it is not even reflected in the budget of 2015. These are sectoral budget support that we get from the EU and that support is primarily dictated by political considerations.”
Similarly, the finance minister further clarified that the portion of the Estimates that suggests that there was salary “increment for ministers only” is an error, arguing he “would not condone a salary increase for ministers alone without an increase for others”.
The Minority Leader had also questioned the Minister over the exemption of sand mining in the State’s revenue component in the Estimates but Colley responded that “the reason why there is no line item on sand mining (in the estimates) is that over the years the proceeds from sand mining do not come into the budget. These are proceeds that are split between the NEA, the Geology Department and Councils and therefore, it is not coming in as a revenue item for the Government. This is why you have not seen it feature anywhere.”
However, the answer to the inquiry as to why the President and the Vice President’s salaries were not clearly spelt out in the Estimates, the Minister responded that “it has been a practice over the years—the salary of the President and the Vice President is embedded in the line item called general services.”
The domestic debt of The Gambia has reached staggering 19 billion dalasis, a figure that Samba Jallow said suggests the country is in a financial crisis.
Meanwhile, the minister reiterated before lawmakers the urgent need for fiscal discipline and prudent financial management within the civil service.
“If we are able to control spending within the appropriate limit… we will be able to meet the aspirations of the budget,” he said.
“As a government we have achieved so many things over the years and I still remain confident that we can do many more good things. But doing that means we all have to collectively adhere to what has been programmed and ensure that the costs of overspending are minimized because at the end of the day it affects everybody.”
He added that the Government is “committed … to work towards bringing down the need to borrow which will further ease pressures and inflation and hope that by the end of 2016, we will meet out inflation target of 5%”.
The National Assembly resumes sitting on Monday, November 21.