By Momodou Jarju
The Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Bai Lamin Jobe, has informed lawmakers in Banjul that they are considering reopening video clubs and other Small Medium–sized Enterprises (SMEs) to ease up the closure which is impeding the lives and livelihoods of the actors in the aforesaid industry.
Minister Jobe made the remark in response to a supplementary question raised by Banjul North NAM, Ousman Sillah.
Sillah asked the minister whether they could consider liaising with justice and ministry of health to ease up some of the restrictions to enable MSEs, particularly the video operators to have the capacity of their halls reduced to half to enable them earn their income.
“Yes we are considering that,” the minister responded.
“I am a member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on COVID-19 and your question is raised there. Not only video clubs, we have gyms being mentioned and other SMEs which are being considered.”
Jobe said before they take a decision, they have to take a professional advice from the minister of health who is a member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on COVID-19
Earlier on, Member for Serrekunda Halifa Sallah, quizzed the minister to indicate whether they have a package for relief or compensation, if any that has been prepared for owners of businesses like video clubs which have suffered closures.
In response, Minister Jobe said the Government of The Gambia acknowledges that SMEs, including owners of video clubs, are seriously affected by the pandemic.
However, minister Jobe said, due to economic challenges and budget constraints the Government at the moment does not have a specific relief package for the SMEs.
He also indicated that the Government in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned a comprehensive assessment of the socio-economic effects of Covid-19 on the Gambia.
“The final draft report is currently being reviewed by stakeholders. The study explores the immediate, medium and long-term socio-economic impact of the pandemic and offers recommendations to mitigate the negative effects. Some of the recommendations of the study include direct cash transfer to MSEs most affected in the informal sector and micro enterprise category. Two, loan restructuring and referrals, specifically for small and medium enterprises,” he said.
Minister Jobe said the Government in partnership with UNDP, through the Gambia Bureau of Statistics, also conducted a rapid assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on tourism related sectors.
As part of the assessment, he said, individual entrepreneurs were covered, including tourist taxi-drivers, airport porters, fruits sellers, juice pressers, bird watchers, tourist guides, hairdressers and craft market vendors.
It was based on a list provided by the Gambia Tourism Board, he added.
“However, as a result of this study, the following were recommended; that the UNDP is working with the Gambia Tourism Board to possibly effect direct cash transfers to those employees who are in the tourism and hospitality sector who have been laid off due to Covid-19,” Jobe said.
The public officer also said the study has made some preliminary assessment and there will be intervention for the formal sector and the informal sector.
“The figures are not finalized, but as and when they come up with final figures, it will be made public,” minister Jobe said.