4 December 2012

Gambia: Finance Minister Presents Budget Estimates for 2013- No Mention of Salary Increments or High Prices of Commodities

The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Honourable Abdou Colley, yesterday, laid before the National Assembly Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure including Development Expenditures of the Government of The Gambia for 2013, but nothing was mentioned of salary increments and the sky rocketing prices of commodities at the market.

"I rise to lay before this august Assembly Estimates of Revenue and Expenditures including Development Expenditures of the Government of The Gambia for the fiscal year January 1st to December 31st 2013, both dates inclusive", asserted Hon. Abdou Colley, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.

The Finance Minister in presenting the draft estimates before deputies revealed the legal requirements for the presentation. He revealed that the presentation of the government budget to the National Assembly is specified in the 1997 Constitution. He said it is also specified in the Budget Management and Accountability Act of 2004.

"Within a weak global economic environment, revenue projections for 2013 have been cautious", he disclosed.

Minister Colley stressed the need to avoid the spiraling of the country's high domestic debt. He unveiled that the domestic financing of the budget has been limited to about D340 million. He said a rigorous prioritization was done to make sure the expenditure outlays match revenue projections within a limited scope for increase in domestic debt to finance the deficit.

"Total revenue and grants is projected to rise by 13.1 percent in 2013 to D6,528.2 million", he said.

The Finance Minister asserted that total expenditure and net-lending is projected to rise to D7,398.9 million in 2013. He said personnel expenditures are projected to increase by 8.6 percent to stand at D1, 861.7 million. He further revealed that the capital spending is estimated to rise by 18.0 percent in 2013.

"D25 million is budgeted for a Civil Servant Loan Scheme which will be used to provide loans to qualified civil servants starting in 2013", he disclosed.

Minister Colley revealed that the gross budget balance is projected at a deficit of D870. 7 million compared to D951.4 million in 2012. He said reducing domestic borrowing is a critical step on the path to eliminating net domestic borrowing to put the budget on a sustainable footing.

"Interest payments currently consume around 22 percent of government revenues", he pointed out.

The Minister of Finance assured the National Assembly that if they approve the budget it would be a useful tool in their drive to accelerate growth and reduce poverty as well as to sustain macroeconomic stability in the country.

However, he said a significant increase in government revenues has been recorded in 2012. He has made mention of substantial increases in the collection of taxes and tax arrears through a commission of inquiry on tax evasion. He said the crop failure of last year has further weakened economic activity during the first half of 2012.

"We will be having meeting with experts so that we will be able to debate on the budget estimates professionally", said Hon. Netty Baldeh, the member for Tumana.

The National Assembly Member for Tumana has seconded the motion. He commended the honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs for a job well done. Subsequently, the session was adjourned till Wednesday 5th December 2012.

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