The National Assembly members on Wednesday scrutinized the report of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) on the justification of the budget allocation to various ministries. They also proceeded with a debate on the Draft 2021 estimates of revenue and expenditure of The Gambia, from 1st January to 31st December, 2021.
The 2021 estimated budget stands at 22.2 billion dalasis. With a budget deficit of 6 billion, NAMs debated whether to downsize or increase the budget if necessary, before approval.
Hon Sainey Touray sad that Gambia still unable to self-fund national projects
The National Assembly Member for Jarra East, Hon. Sainey Touray said he is contended
with the FPAC report justification on the budget estimate as according to him, the committee did a tremendous job. The parliamentarian said however that lessons are to be learned from the FPAC report and the budget altogether. “There are lots of lessons that need to be learned from the FPAC report and as a country if we cannot provide for ourselves fully, we should always cut our clothes according to size.”
Hon. Sainey Touray said it is very sad that years after independence, The Gambia cannot still fund its development projects and has never learned from past experiences. Lessons were to be learned about how every year, the budget is in billions but the important projects are always neglected and not given the priority they deserved.
Hon Dembo Camara: Additional D77 million on Banjul rehabilitation is a problem
The National Assembly member for llliasa constituency, Hon.Dembo Camara opined that the the budget estimate in its entirety be rejected. According to Hon Camara, the 2021 budget is crafted not to serve the needs of the people it should serve, just like the previous budget they about to end.
“As far I am concerned, I reject this 2021 estimate entirely because it will not serve our
people at the end of the day, I am equally disappointed in the increment of another D77 million on the Banjul rehabilitation project that never finishes.” Why waste all that money on it? He asked
He added that another most disappointing item justifying the rejection of the budget has to do with the most important ministry to him -the ministry of Agriculture- is under-budgeted compared to other ministries. “We should invest more money on Agriculture if we want to be self-sufficient and self-sustainable. But it is rather unfortunate that it is the reverse in this country”.
Hon.Dembo Camara expressed dismay on the salaries of drivers and gardeners at the Office of the President. “They work at the highest office but at the end of the day their salaries cannot even buy them a bag of rice, which is very sad and heartbreaking.”
He added that the electorate should boycott the next presidential election if they are not taken care of by a government that provides its citizens. “Let’s show them who is more powerful”.
Hon. Muhammed Mahanera: “Covid-19 is the proof that we can cut travel allowances”
Muhammed Mahanera, the National Assembly Member for Sandu Constituency, said the purpose of scrutinizing the budget is to reduce the deficit and to save money for other important things that need urgent attention.
“I think the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a very important lesson and we should cut on
travels and continue with the zoom meetings and develop our health sector before another pandemic hits.”
On the issue of urgently needed food quality laboratories,, Mr Mahanera said line ministries that are into food safety and processing should create one from their budget rather than tapping funds from outside the country. “We need a laboratory food safety though it is costing us huge amount of money at the end of the day.”
Muhammed Mahanera said “companies like GACH Global go to Senegal to test and obtain certification of their products”. This he said, is “a burden in millions in a foreign country for the companies that could have been avoided if a food testing Centre owned by the government of The Gambia existed”. The money paid by the companies would have gone to the state coffers, he said.
Hon Muhammed Magassy: “Agriculture is poorly endowed.., fund the blood banks”
The NAM for Basse, Muhammed Magassy said this year, D500 Million is allocated for
Agriculture. To Hon. Magassy, it is a very small amount considering the importance of Agriculture. “We should give more money to agriculture if we want to live debt free and self-sufficiently”.
Muhammed Mahassy advised his fellow lawmakers to take time and go through the budget and avoid approving anything that will have little or no impact in their constituencies.
“The budget before us once again to be scrutinized. Let’s take our time and go through it to see that our constituencies’ needs are very much included. If we approve it without thinking about the people we are here for, then we fail as honorable members”.
He asked the ministry of Education to explain why there is zero budget allocation for an important educational sector like Adults and Informal learning.
“The Issue of blood banks is another headache in this country. All hospitals and major health facilities should have blood banks and nothing is mentioned here under the Health ministry’s budget.” Said Magassy.
Hon. Touma Njie: Redirecting Health funds elsewhere is irrational
Banjul South National Assembly Member, Hon. Touma Njie reminded her fellow Lawmakers that the key role of a legislature is to defend the needs of the people they represent. “We shouldn’t be limited to 10 minutes to debate on our future.” She expressed
disappointment with the Ministry of Health for redirecting funds that were meant for hospitals to other areas.
“I don’t think any sane person will redirect any funds from a hospital to a ministry, the coronavirus should be a lesson to learn and every country is looking at strengthening their health system. But it is sad that we are not looking into that sector. I spent millions treating myself outside of the country” she said.
She advised the national assembly to monitor the Foreign affairs ministry on the money meant for Gambian foreign students, “We should monitor them this time around on how the school fees of those students are being paid and monitor the activities of any other ministry inclusive in this budget.”
She expressed disappointment to the ministry of Women affairs on the 0.5 percent allocation for women empowerment. “We have more than 60 percent of women in this country, they should be empowered in all capacity.”
Government all out to raise taxes
Government expects to raise D35 Billion Dalasi in taxes, non-tax-based sources as well as loans and grants from donors.
The entire tax revenue that the Government plans to raise in 2021 is over D12.2 Billion and the total non-tax revenue that the Government expects to collect is over D1.5 Billion.
Some D1.79 Billion is expected to be raised from Capital Revenue such as sale and rent of Government Land.
A total of D12 Billion is also expected to be raised from Grants from International Partners.
Finally, the Government also aims to raise up to D7.68 Billion from external (D4.2 Billion) and domestic (D3.46 Billion) loans.