A three-day capacity-building workshop on tobacco taxation, organized by the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare and Finance and Economic Affairs in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), has just ended at the Senegambia Beach Hotel. Technically and financially supported by the WHO, the training was attended by revenue, custom, economics and health officials. The training was conducted through collaborative efforts of the WHO Country Office, AFRO and HQ in response to request from the national authorities. The overall objective of the training was to strengthen national capacity for tobacco taxation with specific emphasis on strengthening the implementation of the current tobacco policy introduced by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs with the support of the WHO. During the three-day interactive discussions, participants were introduced to new tools, protocols, models and best practices in tobacco taxation to further improve the current tobacco tax system.
Previously the WHO initially supported the Gambia to review its tobacco tax structure and trained a team of economists from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in Togo in 2012 on tobacco taxation modelling. This paved the way for a three-year policy shift 2013-2015, from the traditional volume-based system to a tax system based on packet of cigarettes.
Mr. Yahya Manneh, Deputy Director Policy, Planning & Research at the Gambia Revenue Authority, gave a brief account on the new tax initiative and thanked the World Health Organization for supporting the country. He noted that since its introduction, revenue from tobacco taxation has increased substantially with corresponding decrease in tobacco consumption as shown below:
IMPACT OF TAX POLICY CHANGES ON REVENUE AND VOLUME
Thus, "the Gambia's tobacco taxation initiative has become a model and a success story not only in the African Region but the world at large", says Dr. William Maina and expert from WHO Regional Office for African. He pledged WHO's continued support to this initiative with a view to further strengthening Gambia's tobacco tax system.
The main outcomes of the training were:
A three-year road map 2019 - 2021 for increase in specific tax of GMD 5 per packet of cigarettes every year
A proposal for an additional GMD 0.25 per packet as a levy for tobacco control and prevention of other non-communicable diseases
The following key Recommendations emerged at the end of the training:
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to finalize the proposal and present it to the Minister for Finance for consideration
The Gambia Revenue Authority to initiate process of implementation of track and trace systems using tax stamps
The Ministry of Health to accelerate the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2016 especially the Graphic Health Warnings and Smoke Free environments
WHO to continue providing technical support to build capacity among customs officers on prevention of illicit trade.