Finance Minister says the D500 Million COVID-19 Fund is available and ready for disbursement


By: Kebba AF Touray

Finance Minister, Mambury Njie, on Friday told legislators the D500 Million Emergency Fund for the battle against COVID-19 is available and ready for disbursement.

Njie said this while responding to lawmakers.

This statement was made during the debate on the extension of the 90 day state of emergency, proposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in The Gambia.

He clarified: “The entire D500 million is for health and the committee will be looking at how we do the disbursement. It is demand driven and there is below the line account. Right now, before the D500 million, we have disbursed D12 million. They have only spent D11 million”.

He said: “And now there is a request in the Ministry for D60 Million, this includes the payment of hotels and some imprest for some regional health teams. That is D100,000 for each of them and we are also making sure that all the procurement, internal auditing , verification is done. As at now, they have not even touch the D500 million”.

He told lawmakers they are managing within the D21 billion allocated in the national budget by Parliament. We don’t want to expand and we also want to contain the inflation, fiscal deficit.”
He said this is a small vulnerable economy and whatever they do, they make sure that fiscal discipline is there.

He added: “Otherwise if we have any dislocation, everything will crumble and if I come to you for another supplementary appropriation bill, with another D21 billion, we cannot pay it in the midst of our revenue projection and the projection will go down”.

He said he earlier told lawmakers that the country’s projected growth rate of 6.3 percent might go down by 3.3 percent. He was however quick to point out that as of Friday morning, the revised figure they have was about 2.5 percent. This he said, calls for the need to adjust and tighten their belts.

He explicated: “In the event we need to give any compensation package to the vulnerable, out of the total Gambian households 280, 659, we said if you have to do everything rice, oil and D1000 for each household, it will cost us D800 million, if we do 50 percent of the household, it will cost us D400 million. If we do 40 percent, it is D320 million and if we do 30 percent, it will cost us D240 million”.

He clarified: “The 10 million United States dollars that is being rumored is D590 million. I have just signed it today. It is not coming to us, the World Bank will be working closely with health team to make sure that all the procurement and everything that is agreed here is properly executed”.

Minister Njie emphasized the D500 million approved by the Barrow administration is available.
He added: “The total committed fund is D512 million. Out of this, we have already disbursed D12 Million, but up to today, there is no single money coming from any donor”.

He said “We do have access to facilities at the IMF, but we are not using it now. The initial quota we have is about US$21 million, that they will give us for five years interest free and everything that will help us at least cushion the exogenous shocks”.

He urged: “We have to be realistic, think about sustainability and the future. If we spend everything today, tomorrow we are empty. We will appeal that give us time we are managing with the limited resources we have, otherwise if there is any sign of dislocation, the entire country will go down”.