3 December 2013

Gambia: Finance Minister Presents Draft Appropriation Bill 2014

The minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Monday presented before National Assembly members the Draft Appropriation Bill, being the estimates of revenues and expenditures of the government of The Gambia for the period 1stJanuary to 31st December 2014.

The legal requirements for the presentation of the government of The Gambia budget to the National Assembly are specified in the 1997 Constitution, and the Budget Management and Accountability Act of 2004. Section 152 (1) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The

Gambia also requires the president to instruct the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs to prepare and submit to the National Assembly, at least 30 days before the end of each financial year, the estimates of revenues and expenditures of The Gambia for the following year.

Tabling the bill before deputies, Kebba S. Touray said the 2014 budget presents the framework by which the government's priorities in terms of programmes and projects are formulated and implemented.

He noted that the main objectives of the 2014 budget are to create more savings on interest payments to allow increased financing of government programmes and to make allocations that meet set targets for agriculture, health, and education.

"We intend to achieve this by bringing down the stock of domestic debt relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through the reduction of our net domestic borrowing requirements over the short to medium term. This is expected to lead to a drop in the domestic debt ration from the end 2013 projection of 80 percent to 60 percent by end 2016," he informed NAMs.

The minister told the lawmakers that there is an urgent need to contain the growth in domestic debt, and for that matter, to limit the overall growth of government expenditure in line with revenue growth. He however noted that achieving this would be difficult unless there is high-level commitment from all stakeholders.

Given that the government faces significant challenges to mobilise the needed resources to implement its development agenda, Finance Minister Touray told lawmakers that it will address the issues through a broad-based approach. This, he explained, will include rebuilding of government revenues, savings from reduced interest costs on domestic debt, accessing external concessional financing while maintaining debt sustainability and harnessing private participation in viable sectors.

The government, he went on, seeks to address optimally the major debt problems and issues confronting the Gambia economy by exploring new innovative ways of mobilising external resources in order to ensure that there is sustainable development. "It will also partner with the private sector and donors in putting in place a legal and regulatory framework for public-private partnerships initiatives, embark on a campaign of communications for attracting foreign direct investments and also facilitate the participation of the private investors in our national development programmes." He outlined.

Revenue and Grants

Minister Touray disclosed that the total domestic revenue in 2014 is projected to rise by 21.8 percent over 2013 revenue. This, he explained, is principally due to a 20.5 percent expected rise in tax revenue and a 32.0 percent projected increase in non-tax revenue.

"These forecasts assume GRA will continue to make improvements in compliance levels as well as implement the revenue measures. Furthermore, a budget support of D313 million is anticipated from the World Bank and African Development Bank," he further informed deputies.

Expenditure & financing

For the total expenditure and net-lending, the Finance minister revealed that it is projected to rise from D8, 291.0 million in 2013 to D11, 506.8 million in 2014, an increase of 38.8 percent. Personal expenditures, he added, are projected to increase by around 26.4 percent in 2014 to D2, 043.5 million.

He continued: "The capital spending, including externally financed is estimated to rise by 34.9 percent in 2014 to D3, 690.5 million. The projected fiscal deficit for 2014 is D2, 877.1 million, which is 17 percent higher than the revised projection for 2013. Net domestic borrowing is projected to be limited to D933.5 million in 2014, around 2.5 percent of GDP. External loan disbursement to finance new and ongoing projects in estimated at D2.496 billion whilst the repayments of principals on external loans is programmed at D763 million."

The draft budget if approved, according to the minister, will be a tool to achieve and sustain macroeconomic stability and the government's primary objective of reducing poverty.

The motion was seconded by the Majority leader and NAM for Serrekunda East, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta.

NAMs are expected to debate the draft budget on 9th December for when the House resumes business.

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