17 January 2013

Gambia: About the VAT


The skyrocketing of prices of basic commodities in the country remains a cause for concern.

It is rather unfortunate that less than three weeks after the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), the prices of basic commodities have been increasing exorbitantly.

This is unacceptable, and needs urgent redress from the GRA. If people find it difficult to buy food for their families as a result of the undue price rise, this could be very serious.

Though it was made very clear by the acting Commissioner-General of the GRA last week that the escalation of prices of goods and foodstuff, that has gripped the nation in the wake of the VAT, cannot and should not be linked to its introduction on January 1 this year, it seems this has fallen on deaf ears.

According to him, VAT has not been introduced to increase prices of commodities; rather "it is just a question of replacing sales tax" that was in existence prior to VAT.

"There is no reason why businesspeople should be increasing the prices of their goods and services because of VAT," he emphasised, saying that increasing prices of goods and services on account of VAT is illegal and unscrupulous, because the rate of 15% that was being charged on goods and services prior to the introduction of VAT is the same rate that is charged now under VAT.

We feel very sad that it is becoming a habit in this country to see businesspeople increasing the price of basic commodities any time they wish to do so without any tangible reason.

Yes, we know that businesses are established to yield a profit, but at the same time businesspeople should always consider the plight of their customers, and be more reasonable and flexible.

We are not saying that they should sell their commodities at a loss, but at a reasonable price, so to speak.

As matters stand, we believe it is high time for the GRA to re-engage the business community, especially net importers, in a thorough or detailed explanation on the teething problems emanating from the introduction of VAT on January 1 this year to avert the situation.

We strongly believe that the matter can be solved amicably through constant dialogue.

Unavailability of affordable and accessible food will, no doubt, undermine the food self-sufficiency dream we want to achieve as a country, if the trend continues like this.

It is also high time we started to grow our food, and provide the necessary storage facilities, as this is the only way to overcome the frequent skyrocketing prices in the market.

"Too many people today know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

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