Gov’t Gives 230,000 Bags of Rice, Defers Tax Returns for Businesses
President Adama Barrow launched the food relief package on Sunday giving 230, 000 bags of 50kg broken rice, 230, 000 bags of 50kg sugar and 148, 000 of 10 liters of refined cooking oil to 84 percent of the country’s vulnerable society.
The items will be distributed across the country through the Governors, Chiefs and the village head (Alkalolu).
The President has also announced at a ceremony in Banjul that the government has decided to defer the tax returns for businesses in the first quota of 2019.
“My government recognizes that Gambians deserve an urgent national response to both the health and socio-economic crisis resulting from losses in productivity and remittances to Gambian households.
“Accordingly, we will ensure that support provided to all citizens, especially the vulnerable, is real in value. In this respect, following a thorough review exercise, over seven hundred and thirty-four million (GMD734, 254,864) is now available to support 84% deserving households countrywide,” Barrow said.
He said such support will include rice, oil and sugar to each of the vulnerable households identified. He clarified that the amount herein is different from the D500 million that was earmarked for the Ministry of Health to upgrade and sufficiently strengthen our health system to address the COVID-19 challenges and beyond.
The country is currently in a state of public emergency for a 45-day period to contain the spread of the virus.
“Balancing health and socio-economic responses to the coronavirus pandemic is most certainly a daunting challenge. Nevertheless, we must weather the storm and, in the process, make tough decisions, such as the declaration of the state of emergency. All these interventions demonstrate our depth of understanding, compassion and unity in times of adversity,” he said.
He said although the government recognizes the urgency to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are mindful of the need for professional responses to both the growing health and economic crisis arising from it.
“Within the restrictive parameters of the state of emergency, the search for livelihood and ensuring food security are realities that must be safeguarded, while we continue to observe the social distancing guidelines and use facial masks in public.”
Apart from the government support, he said that supplies of rice, sugar, flour and other food items are available in the stocks.
“We are aware that about two hundred thousand (200,000) people are engaged in the retail and service sectors. To support this important business community, the tax returns for 2019 have been deferred from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter. In addition, there are ongoing reviews to tease out possibilities to further support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.”
Barrow said another critical measure to control COVID-19 is the restriction on the movement of people through the stay-at-home policy. Notwithstanding, he said the government continues to pay salaries to public servants.
Transparency and accountability
Barrow claimed that transparency and accountability form the cornerstone of his administration. He noted that a single government account has been opened to cater for rapid one-stop financial transactions to that effect.
“Also, distributions and monitoring mechanisms have been put in place involving the relevant institutions and local government authorities. Distribution Points have been identified and vouchers will be used to reach the household beneficiaries with the government Food Support.”
He said a Donation Committee has been set up to coordinate all donations regarding COVID-19, and a National Response Coordinator has been identified.
“This decision is meant to expedite efficient and effective processes in the management and provision of socio-economic support, while keeping the public informed and updated on such processes.”
“In a global pandemic, such as what we are witnessing, every country must look inward to protect and provide for its people. Therefore, it is equally timely that two thousand (2000) tonnes of fertilizer are available to support farmers in the upcoming rainy season and further strengthen our drive for food security.
“I urge all able-bodied persons, particularly the youth, to redirect their energies into agriculture: be it to cultivate our staple foods or horticulture production. Together, let us make agribusiness a reality.”