Area Councils Seek Government’s Bailout amid COVID-19 Hit
Three local government administrations have requested for the central government’s bailout amid decline in revenue collections as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The head of Mansakonko Area Council, Kuntaur Area Council and Basse Area Council respectively have all made the call, indicating that the intervention of the central government is urgently needed.
Duty collections at the daily and weekly markets (lumo) formed a significant component of the revenue of area councils in the country. This was heavily affected when the government banned weekly markets in the rural areas as a way to curb the further spread of the virus. Markets in the urban areas were also restricted.
The government lifted the bans and restrictions a fortnight ago. However, damage has already been done.
According to them, if councils are left unattended to by the central government most of them will not be able to pay their salaries in the next few months’ time.
“I’m really expecting government support to councils at this hour, which I think is not a favour to the councils but a responsibility on the part of the government in such an unforeseen circumstances if we are to be able to carry out any development initiative for our people,” said Landing B. Sanneh, chairman of Mansakonko Area Council.
He said all the councils are in dire need of support from not only the central government but any other institutions, organisations and private citizens. He decried that the financial muscles of the councils have been cut-off by the pandemic.
The chairman of Kuntaur Area Council, Saihou Jawara says the level of damage in the pandemic is in excess. He feared that without support from the government, they wouldn’t be able to meet their expectations.
“I want to urge the government to provide subventions to the councils. This will help the councils to be able to do their work effectively.
“I can tell you right now all the councils are in distress as far as revenue generation is concerned. The revenue generation has collapsed woefully for the council and without revenue councils are finished,” Jawara tells The Chronicle.
He blamed the government for shutting down lumos without taking into account the livelihoods of the councils and the rural people who entirely depend on the weekly market for their survival.
“Lumos are the life-blood of the people of the provinces as well as the councils for revenue generation. With the closure of these lumos, I can tell you 90% of revenue generation of councils across the country is lost,” Chairman Jawara noted.
He accused the government of being unfair to them for allowing the markets in the greater Banjul area to operate.
“I see no reason why they couldn’t allow lumos to operate even if it means observing social distancing, limiting it to only those within the country as well as providing washing hand buckets.”
Basse Area Council depends more on revenue generated from the six Lumos that operate in the area. The chairman of the council, Foday Danjo says they are finding it difficult to follow businesses to comply with their tax obligations as most of the businesses are only allowed to operate from 6am -6pm.
“Since the start of the covid-19, we have lost all our sources of revenues including the revenues accrued from the lumo and this has put a big challenge on us. At this moment councils have no option but to appeal to the government for support,” he said.
“Honestly, if this covid-19 situation goes any further we (Basse Area Council) will not be able to pay salaries because all our sources of revenues are closed down,” Danjo said.