Your Excellency, The Vice President & Minister of Women’s Affairs
Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly
Hon. Cabinet Ministers
GRA Board Members
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to preside over the 2019 Annual Taxpayers Awards Ceremony in my capacity as Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. This event is very important for us at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs as custodians of the national budget and for Government in general as we seek concrete paths to addressing economic growth and development for our country.
I am reliably informed that this event has the main objectives of boosting tax compliance and creating the opportunity for the expansion of the tax base. This will ensure that Government mobilizes the required domestic revenues to fund its development agenda. In so doing, it has become necessary that we set aside a day like today for Government to recognize our distinguished taxpayers who have exhibited the highest level of compliance behavior. Those taxpayers we are going to recognize today have supported Government enormously in implementing our tax laws and achieving our economic development goals and objectives.
As a sovereign country it is imperative that we build a solid domestic revenue base to guarantee macroeconomic stability, growth and development. Government has also come up with a comprehensive National Development plan (2018-2021), which is a broad embodiment of our collective wishes and aspirations as a nation, to ensure development and social cohesion in all sectors of society. This plan anticipates funding to arise from the domestic revenues mobilized through taxation given that The Gambia is a tax based economy. Therefore, the initiative taken by Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) to reward and recognize compliant taxpayers receives the full support of my Ministry as a strategy to increase the revenue base.
The Government of The Gambia is well aware of the policy objective of using taxation both as an instrument of revenue mobilization and to spur growth. That is all the more the reason why Government has been steadily reducing the tax burden on individuals and corporations as we had recently witnessed in the personal and corporation tax rates. The international trade tax rates, as in the case of duty on rice, is a case in point to reduce the tax burden and make such essential imports affordable to Gambian consumers. Government has also from time to time protected domestic industries against cheaper imports which can dislocate them and cause unemployment problems in the economy. The Government and the private sector are partners in development, hence, Government will create the necessary policies for an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.
The current revenue to GDP ratio of 12.5% as at December 31st, 2018 which is relatively lower than the 20% average for Sub-Saharan Africa, shows that as a country we can still increase our taxation capacities through improvements in compliance and efficiency in collection. Government is investing in the human resources capacity and Information technologies in GRA to achieve the key objectives of a high level of tax compliance and tax efficiency in the country. I, therefore solicit your understanding and cooperation in demonstrating the highest level of voluntary tax compliance to be the partners in development with Government as you have claimed in many fora. Government and GRA in particular, will continue to provide the services and incentives to facilitate tax compliance at minimal cost. Government will also continue to create the fora and avenues for meaningful public and private sector engagements as a means of giving the private sector a voice to influence public policy.
In conclusion, let me once again thank our esteemed taxpayers for making it possible for government to function and serve the Gambian population by implementing projects and programs, such as roads and bridges, and the social sectors of Health and Education. I also want to seize this opportunity to wish you a Happy and prosperous New Year.