By: Kebba AF Touray
The Trade Committee of the National Assembly, last Wednesday engaged the nation’s main beverage production company ‘Banjul Breweries’, to discuss the Company’s decision to close operations in the country.
The engagement which was attended by Committee Members, Officials of the Company, the Trade Ministry and the Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), was to find out whether the reason(s) behind the Company’s decision to cease all operations in the country was because of economic losses and a multi-million Euro rehabilitation investment, as alluded to by the Company’s authorities.
Nominated Member Ya Kumba Jaiteh recommended that proper planning should be in place to save the Company’s workers whose chances of continuity are slim; that this will minimize the impact of the closure of ‘Banjul Breweries’ on the country’s economy.
Billay Tunkara, the National Assembly Member for Kantora said Government should go further to give ‘Banjul Breweries’ tax incentives as encouragement for them to bounce back to their profit making base; that the industry is a household name in the country and this should be preserved and protected.
Momodou Ceesay, the National Assembly Member for Janjangbureh said it is not in the interest of Government to see ‘Banjul Breweries’ closed; that the matter should have been addressed much earlier. He said this particular Company has operated in the country for decades and has generated immense profit.
Muhammed Magassy, the National Assembly Member for Basse said the profitability of the Company suffered up to 2014; that during 2019, the issue of tax came when hopes were high. He cited that tax reduction did not heal the wounds of the Company, but instead aggravated their problems.
Magassy said the increment in tax from 10% to 75% has thwarted the confidence, trust and hope that existed between the Company and Government; that if the efforts being made were properly communicated to shareholders, this can increase their hope.
An Official from the Company who was at the meeting clarified that despite the Company facing loses from 2010-2014, it continued operations without making any dividend payments to shareholders; that it only made dividend payments in 2017 and 2018, during the last eight years; that the Company instead double staff level in 2011 and expanded production, at the same time maintaining corporate-social responsibilities.
The Official said she would like to see ‘Banjul Breweries’ continue but that they have to consider the issues they face and the expectation of their shareholders.
Yankuba Darboe, Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), described the decision of the Company as a sad one noting that ‘Banjul Breweries’ was a tax compliant Company.
“We hope for the best that we have interested buyers who would work with us. ‘Banjul Breweries’ has been here for decades and enjoyed some of the tax incentives offered them by the authorities,” he said; that the issue was not about tax and went on to give some examples.
Muhammed Mahanera, the Chairperson of the National Assembly Trade Committee, said efforts were underway to address the situation and expressed hope that the operations of the Company would continue instead; that the country was faced with lots of challenges and as such allowing ‘Banjul Breweries’ to close would send a bad signal for the country.
“The Government has increased tax from 10% to 75% and as a Committee, we will do our utmost to revise this decision. Government collected D214 million from the Company last year and in 2020, Government generated D55 million tax revenue from ‘Banjul Breweries’. The closure of ‘Banjul Breweries’ will affect the country in revenue generation and will increase unemployment in the country,” Mahanera concluded.