I am honoured to be here today to celebrate the annual Taxpayer’s Award and Recognition with all the esteemed taxpayers present. For various reasons, this event is of particular interest to my government and the whole nation.
The Government has been a great benefactor of the private sector, but it also benefits a great deal from the sector’s successes. Their contribution to the country’s tax revenue base, for example, is enormous. Accordingly, our potential to locally fund national development programmes largely depends on this revenue base. The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) is, therefore, one of the major avenues of raising funds for national projects.
Since my administration came into office in 2017, GRA’s total revenue receipt grew significantly from about D8 billion to almost D12.8 billion in 2022, representing more than sixty (60) percent increase. In the same period, average monthly revenue collection also grew significantly from D664 million in 2017 to D1.06 billion in 2022.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The growth in tax revenue is the result of a sound government policy to expand the country’s tax base and tighten the loop-holes in our national tax collection system.
At the centre of my government’s fiscal policy is the conviction that our economic prosperity as a country should hinge on expanding the tax base and leveraging technology, rather than interfering with the tax codes. Consequently, this policy position aims to improve the fiscal space and enhance trade facilitation for the private sector to succeed.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
While we commend our development partners, who have continually provided tremendous support to the Gambian people in the form of grants and other types of assistance, we need to shift from depending heavily on foreign aid to relying more on domestic revenue mobilisation. This has become even more necessary in view of the fact that our economy is prone to external shocks.
In 2022, my government was left with no option but to intervene using both fiscal and monetary tools to ease the cost burden on the public. For this purpose, we spent over D1.6 billion as fuel subsidy. Although it provided the much needed relief for the Gambian people, over D1.6 billion of tax revenue was forgone by Government to make fuel internally affordable during the crisis. The money could have been spent on development projects.
As I observed recently, 2022 was particularly challenging for the entire world, including The Gambia. High inflation spread across the globe, resulting in the increase in commodity prices and the cost of living globally.
The economic outlook for low-income countries, among which is The Gambia, is promising this year. It is projected that economic growth will rise marginally from 4.8 percent in 2022 to 4.9 percent, and we are hopeful that this will be a year of relief from the fiscal challenges of last year.
Despite the global economic challenges in 2022, domestic revenue surpassed international trade receipts for the first time since the creation of GRA. Domestic revenue contributed 51.2 percent of GRA collection in 2022.
This successful revenue performance is a direct result of the innovative strategies implemented of late. One of them is the use of modern technology systems and another is the streamlining of the tax collection process. These initiatives have improved efficiency and made it easier for citizens to comply with their tax obligations, thus reducing tax fraud and tax evasion.
I commend the Board, Management, and staff of GRA for the hard work and dedication that have impacted positively on revenue performance. I am confident that with their continued determination, diligence and focused leadership, our country will record bigger achievements in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While it is the obligation of every citizen and entity to shoulder their fair share of the tax burden, it is a laudable initiative to recognise and commend those taxpayers that went the extra mile to fulfil their obligations. They have taken up and fulfilled a huge responsibility, making it quite fitting and an encouragement that we acknowledge and recognise their efforts. I direct this message at all taxpayers, with due recognition to those present.
The funds you contribute are utilised to provide vital services, such as education, public safety, healthcare, infrastructure, and much more. Indeed, your support to the well-being and prosperity of our country is essential, so I express deep gratitude to you on behalf of all citizens of The Gambia.
A Mandinka teaches that “Kaa for dokula ye ining bara, ka juso sumuyandi leh,” implying that saying “thank you” does not fill a stomach but it fills the heart with satisfaction. So, thank you for acting dutifully.
Your unwavering commitment to supporting our domestic revenue mobilisation drive will continue to make a positive impact on the country, and your efforts will never go unnoticed or unrewarded.
I am profoundly happy to be with you in this moment of joy to acknowledge and celebrate your recognition. Your hard work, dedication, and commitment to fulfilling your civic duties are an indication of the strength and character upon which our nation is built. I congratulate all the Awardees on their business accomplishments and commitment to paying taxes accurately and in a timely manner.
I assure you that the Government will meet its obligation of creating the enabling environment and fiscal space for the private sector to thrive. Consider this as an assurance from my government to the private sector.
In conclusion, I encourage all taxpayers to continue supporting the State through your contributions, and never lose sight of the important role you play in building a better future for us all.
God bless the Gambian nation.
I thank you for your attention.