Ousman Sillah: Boosting the productive Base is Key to Leveling Budget Deficit

Photo: Ousman Sillah

By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Assembly Member for Banjul North, Ousman Sillah, has said that boosting the productive sector of the Gambia is requisite for leveling the country’s budget deficit.

Sillah said this on Saturday while intervening on debate on the consolidated report of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) on the 2022 estimates of revenue and expenditure tabled before the lawmakers by the Finance Minister, Mambury Njie, on Monday 18th October 2021.

“Efforts have been made by the government to address the budget deficit.  But the best and most effective method of leveling the budget deficit, and by extension getting to surplus budget, is to boost the productivity of the economy,” he said.

He said the minister informed the assembly that total revenue and grants in 2022 is projected to reach over D29 billion from D25 billion in 2021, out of which, tax revenue constitutes 13 billion, which is nearly half of the projected total revenue and grants.

“This country is endowed with potentials in our waters and on our land, and we are yet to see these potentials being adequately harnessed. If you look at the allocations to the diverse entities, there has been no investment in the fisheries ministry that will boost that sector to become a driver of the economy,” he said.

He said reducing the budget deficit cannot be done by either taxation or expecting budget support and grants. To him, unless the country starts investing in the aforesaid sectors, it will be difficult for the country to reduce budget deficit and register surplus budget.

“Economies that are buoyant are those that are registering budget surpluses and I am not sure and I cannot remember if the Gambia, small as it is in terms of population and its endowment, has ever registered budget surplus,” he said.

Sillah said the FPAC has deliberated and communicated the recommendations made by the health committee during its bilateral with the officials from the health ministry on the 2022 estimates in its consolidated report. He however stated that the health sector is confronted with some missing items, but he was quick to clarify that such items were discovered somewhere else.

The lawmaker also said there is statutory allocation for items such as Personnel Emoluments and D1 billion support to health strictly for COVID-19. He said the health ministry somewhat expressed its satisfaction for the budget, but requested for the allocation to be able to secure drugs.

He said there are no savings made towards that direction and that the principle they adopted as a committee was that there be savings, after which the committee can advocate for the sector to ensure that the health sector is supported.

“We want to draw the attention of this plenary that since these are statutory allocations, we want something catered for such request as allocating something for drugs will be a welcomed move and must be done in keeping with the law,” he appealed.