The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Tuesday convened a sensitisation forum with stakeholders namely the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment and the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), at its secretariat in Bijilo, to discuss the recent increase in the prices of essential commodities, particularly foodstuff.
The Value Added Tax (VAT) was introduced by government this January, replacing the previous Sales and Excise Tax. However, the GCCI Secretariat has made it clear that VAT is not an additianal tax, but a replacement of the previous Sales and Excise Tax that has been in existence in the country for a long time.
Speaking at the forum, Naffie Barry, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade , Regional Integration and Employment, stressed that VAT is not intended to create unfavourable business atmosphere in the country, adding that government is not here to levy any punishment on the people.
She told the private sector representatives that development issues should be concern for everyone, adding that government is ready and willing to dialogue.
Yankuba Darboe, the acting commissioner general of GRA, said consumers should be aware that only registered businesses are charged VAT.
Essa Jallow, the commissioner of Domestic Tax at the GRA, said VAT does not represent extra costs on businesses, adding that the cascading effect of the previous sales and excise tax has completely gone away from VAT.
Ousainou Dambel, the GCCI board chairman, observed that there should be a deeper understanding of the people on what tax laws are. He warned that if the prices of commodities continue to hike, then the purpose of VAT will be completely defeated.
For his part, Mamud Jagne, a GRA Board member called on GRA to be patient and be always ready to answer questions regarding VAT.
Stew Scott, the VAT adviser from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in The Gambia, said the situation The Gambia is currently going through about VAT is the same situation many other African countries are also going through.