Thursday, March 17, 2011

GRA registers D3.8 billion revenue

By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
The Gambia Revenue Authority GRA, the body tasked with the responsibility to enhance efficiency in tax administration so as to harmonize and optimize revenue collection, has registered about D3.8 billion revenue in 2009.
The 2009 activity report of the Authority, which was recently presented to the National Assembly Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees, has it that the 2009 revenue exceeds the Ministry of Finance’s target for the Authority by 3%.
 “GRA registered an absolute revenue increase of D422.5 million representing a 13% revenue growth. This indicates a remarkable increase in collection capacity relative to the previous year,” says Bakary Sanyang, Acting Commissioner General of GRA, while presenting the Authority’s report at the National Assembly.
The improvement in the revenues for the current year was significantly influenced by collections on oil products made by the Customs and Excise Department.
Mr Sanyang said: “The oil revenues accounted for more than 30% of the overall revenues for CED [Customs and Excise Department] in 2009. CED contributed about 60% of the GRA revenues for 2009 whilst Domestic Taxes Department accounted for the remaining 40%. The above revenue contribution ratio indicates the important role that international trade taxes continue to play towards our domestic revenue mobilization efforts.”
The Ecowas Trade Liberalization Scheme and the Economic Partnership Agreements, which will give duty-free access to imports originating from the ECOWAS region and Europe when fully implemented, is believed to have the potential of significantly eroding the national revenue base.
The revenue growth for 2009 was underpinned by low oil prices for the most part of the year due to the global economic crisis and an effective enforcement of the revenue laws, Mr Sanyang says: “CED registered a revenue growth of about 35% between 2008 and 2009 which was significantly influenced by the improved collection from the oil products. The global economic recession affected the performance of businesses that are dependent on tourism. The recession was also associated with a drop in the inflow of remittances.”
He added that external shocks have led to a shortfall of 17% registered by the Domestic Taxes Department against its annual target.
Domestic revenue mobilization faces a falling re-export trade and an expanding informal sector with a low level of tax compliance. “To strengthen tax administration in the informal sector,” the GRA acting DG said, “the 2007 Informal Sector Regulation was promulgated, which provides for specific amounts that informal sector businesses are required to pay. This is an important step in expanding the tax base.”
According to Mr Sanyang, revenue collecting system continues to receive the attention of the Board and Management of GRA to ensure that revenue collection is maximised through the efficient and effective administration of taxes.
“The Authority continues to register a positive revenue growth since its inception in 2007 with revenues growing by 17.5%, 13%, and 12.6% for 2007, 2008, and 2009,” he stated, adding: “GRA has registered an average annual revenue growth of about 10.5% in the first three years of its operation making it among the best performing revenue authorities in Africa.”
The Gambia     government, with support from its development partners, continues to evolve sound revenue policies aimed at strengthening the capacity of GRA to enforce the revenue laws.
According to Mr Sanyang the restructuring and modernization of the Authority, since levels and revenue collecting agencies were merged, has resulted into higher compliance levels and revenue yields. The current revenue-to-GDP ratio of 19% is among the highest for taxing the final output of goods and services produced in the economy.
“Achieving such a high revenue ratio in a country like The Gambia where the agricultural sector which makes a sizeable contribution to GDP and employment makes a negligible contribution to tax revenues is a mark of success for GRA,” he says.
As the main revenue collecting agency for the government, the GRA’s collection for 2009 accounted for about 83% of the revenues estimates and 71% of the estimates for expenditure and net lending in the government’s budget for the year.
The Authority is committed to ensuring that it plays its rightful role in mobilizing the required financial resources for the realization of financial independence, sovereignty and the Vision 2020. Its Board and Management would continue to put emphasis on meeting both the domestic and international obligations of the Authority, report presented by Mr Sanyang states, adding that the security objectives of the Authority continue to be pursued with vigour to control the entry of prohibited and restricted imports.
He explained further: “GRA has now put in place the requisite institutional mechanisms for the proper administration of taxes in the country. This process has ushered in a sound modernization programme aided by our 2008-2010 Corporate Plan leading to the strengthening of the tax administration system. Operational documents and procedure manuals continue to guide the administration of taxes.”
The Authority’s reforms are focusing on the preparation of a new customs and excise legislation, the adoption of the WTO Valuation Agreement, Migration from ASYCUDA 2.7 to ASYCUDA++, implementation of GAMTAXNET and VAT.
The Authority has also endeavoured to continue with the strengthening of its internal environment by deepening its revenue administration reforms to positively influence the institutional and human factors that affect its performance.
Said Mr Sanyang: “The evolving economic policies of the country and the stable political environment provide hopes for the expansion of the revenue base. Therefore, tax administration efficiency; sound economic, political, and trade policies; the removal of border obstacles by neighboring Senegal; and the continuous support of development partners will determine the revenue collection horizon of the Authority .
“The foregoing highlights the extricable link between the performance of GRA and its internal and external environments.”
In pursuit of the creation of the right atmosphere for increased revenue mobilization, the Authority continues to constructively engage its stakeholders within and outside the country.
The Sub-regional and multilateral organizations, mainly ECOWAS, IMF, WCO, WTO and World Bank, are rendering assistance to GRA on the strengthening of its tax administration system.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GIABA organizes open house forum

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has organized a day-long open house forum on “The Role of Youth in Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) in West Africa” on Thursday, 10th March 2011.
Pic: Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, Director General of GIABA
Held in Accra, Ghana, the event which was the fourth edition in the series of GIABA Open House Forum, serves as a platform to educate stakeholders from ECOWAS member States on the deleterious effects and debilitating impact of money laundering and financing of terrorism on peace, security and sustainable development in West Africa.
The Open House is one of the awareness and advocacy strategy adopted by GIABA to sensitise stakeholders particularly the youths on the threats of money laundering and financing of terrorism and to enable them to advocate for strong AML/CFT measures in the region.
GIABA is a specialized ECOWAS institution as well as FATF- Style Regional Body established in the year 2000 by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS with the mandate to protect the national economies and the financial systems of member States from the laundering of proceeds of crimes in particular money laundering and terrorist financing.
As part of its sustained efforts to raise awareness against the twin scourges of ML/TF in the region, GIABA in its 2011-2014 Strategic Plan considered the promotion of strategic partnerships with the civil society and development partners of utmost importance especially in the dawn of regional integration with its attendance challenges including curbing transnational organized crimes.
About 100 participants comprises students of tertiary institutions, civil society organizations and the media including top government officials and regulatory agencies involved in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing are attended the event.
The event was declared open by the Honourable Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Ghana, while the Director General of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu and GIABA National Correspondent of Ghana, Mr Samuel T. Essel delivered a keynote address and welcoming remark respectively.
Highlight at the occasion were road show procession and presentation of lectures by GIABA faculty and regional expert on anti-money laundering and combating of terrorism financing (AML/CFT) regime.

ATMs pose ‘considerable’ challenges for banks, says CBG Governor

By Lamin Jahateh,  Banjul
The Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia has underscored the new challenges posed by the growing network of Automated Teller Machines (ATM), for commercial and central banks, saying it has affected the compositional shift from lower denomination notes to higher denomination notes.
Pic: Mr. Colley, Governor, Central Bank of The Gambia
“The proliferation of Automated Teller Machines has had a considerable impact and sharpened the focus for both commercial and centrals banks,” Governor Amadou Colley said recently while officially opening a weeklong training on banknote and currency management and forecasting in central banks, organised by the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) in collaboration with De La Rue, at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
The CBG Governor said banks do not find it commercially viable to stock the ATMs with lower denomination notes “because they run out sooner and increase both the capital cost and operating costs”.
The training on banknote and currency management was necessitated by the fact that the problems of currency management in WAIFEM member countries need urgent solutions and a new direction consistent with best practices, in order to engender greater efficiency and minimize the cost of printing and minting currency.
National economies in the region remain predominantly cash-based, reflecting the preference of economic agents, the weakness of the legal system to enforce contracts, and the level of development of payments in WAIFEM member countries.
Generally, the major challenge to protect currencies from counterfeiters has also increasingly become more dependent on partnerships between law enforcement agencies, financial institutions and central banks, as well as with the security printing industry and high-grade supplier’s community. All these factors put together make it essential for central banks of WAIFEM member countries to consider new mechanisms for protecting banknotes and maintaining efficient currency management.
Governor Colley told the workshop participants, drawn from central banks in WAIFEM member countries, including The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, that currency designs present a series of interlocking challenges.
“New designs must win public acceptance, incorporate requisite security features and meet durability and machine processing standards, he said, adding “fitness standards for currency in circulation must be set and monitored whether currency sorting is carried out in-house or outsourced.”
He explained that effective currency management depends on excellent information and insightful analysis.
Governor Colley said:  “Efficient and effective currency management commences with a strategic analysis of the currency life-cycle.  However, strategic management of currency is impossible without accurate forecasts of the demand for banknotes. The long lead time involved in banknote production makes it vital from cost and reputational point of view that central banks forecast the demand for banknotes as accurately as possible.”
The benefits of accurate forecasting are obvious. It encourages more efficient procurement and reduces stockholding costs. In other words, a disciplined, balanced approach to currency management reduces opportunity losses and thus enhances the smooth functioning of the banking system.
Prof. Akpan H. Expo, director general of WAIFEM, noted that no central bank function is more visible than currency management.
“A currency’s integrity and efficient supply are unequivocal everyday indicators of a well-functioning central bank. In the eyes of the people, this integral central bank function should be efficient, meet demand and also present minimal issues which may damage the reputation of the country,” he said.
“Of particular concern is the issue of counterfeiting, which is as old as money itself, and continues to present a potential danger to national economies and financial losses to consumers. Worse of all, recent developments in photographic and computer technology, as well as printing devices, have made the production of counterfeit money relatively easy, thereby increasing the potential threat.”
The central bank officials who took part in the training covered such topics as the new challenges in currency management, new directions in banknote design, security features against counterfeiting, forecasting the demand for banknotes, and country case studies on currency management.

NAWEC loses over D761M in three years

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By Lamin Jahateh,  Banjul
The National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC) has incurred an operational lost of more than seven hundred and sixty-one million dalasis (D761 million) from 2008 to 2010, which impeded the revenue base of the company and affects its operational obligations.
In 2008, the company registered over D363 million losses and in 2009 the losses reduced to D68million. “This only shows how the vagaries in the prices of oil impact on the finances of NAWEC,” said Alhagie Jallow, Finance Director of the sole company that provides electricity, water and sewerage services in The Gambia.
Pic: Mr. Jallow, Managing Director, NAWEC
Justifying this loss, Mr Jallow said: “It was in 2008 we witnessed the global financial and economic crisis and many institutions, the world over, sought for assistance from their governments and they got a bailout package. Unfortunately for NAWEC we have not got any bailout package. Nonetheless we have a responsibility to ensure that our key institutions are protected and sustained if we are to forge ahead in developing this country. In 2009 as the prices of oil started going down, our losses also decreased from D363 in 2008 to D68 million in 2009.
“We expect that our 2010 losses will increase to D330 million and that is precisely because the prices of oil in the international market started to increase from 2009 going to 2010 and still going further into 2011.”

Due to these huge losses, NAWEC is encountering difficulties to pay its suppliers. In 2008 and 2010 the company owed its major suppliers over D378 million and D830 million respectively.
The company’s Finance Director has therefore pleaded with the people to approve NAWEC’s proposed tariffs in order to remedy this situation. “If our tariffs remain the same couple with the vagaries in the prices of oil and volatility in exchange rates, then we will have a problem and that problem would only be resolved if the related cost can be passed to consumers,” he said.
He continued:  “Though we all know that not all cost can be passed to consumers, those that can be passed to consumers will be defined and passed to them to ensure the sustainability of the company.
“Those cost which could not be passed to consumers should obviously be paid for. Who should pay for them also should be identified, but if we don’t it means somehow, somewhere somebody will be taking it up and NAWEC is most of the time owing the suppliers but the suppliers also can go to a certain extent and there will come a time they will say ‘enough is enough’ and they will close their taps, then everybody will sit down and say ‘NAWEC amut oil’  (NAWEC has no oil), then all the lights will be off and everybody will be in darkness and then who knows what follows. We don’t want to get to that point.”
While trying to convince people that NAWEC should increased its tariffs for the services they provided, Mr Jallow said the ever-increasing prices of oil coupled with the stagnant tariffs has negatively impacted on the finances of NAWEC.
“To give you a background of how the increasing prices of oil has impacted on the finances of NAWEC,” he explained,  “the minimum price per barrel for crude oil between November 12th 2010 and February 4th 2011 was $81.70 and that picked up to $95.71 and, as we speak, the cost has increased further to $100 plus.  This is the situation that we have been facing over the last few years.  Under normal circumstances, if such situation occurs some cost should be past to consumers, any excess amount that should be past to consumers should normally be subsidized for.”
NAWEC is proposing to increase tariffs of the different services they provide.
“Our tariffs had been virtually stagnant over the period since January 2009 through to December 2010, whereas the heavy fuel that we use at the Kotu Power Station picked up from July 2009 increasing right through to December 2010 and this is continuing,” he said. “The same thing goes for the light fuel, which we mainly use in the provinces to generate electricity.  The price per litre of light fuel is well over D30 as we speak.”
Provincial operations are not profitable
The Managing of NAWEC, Mr Momodou Jallow says electricity generation in the provinces is not profitable. “The provincial operations are most of the time not profitable - this is not specific to The Gambia,” he added.
“Nonetheless, NAWEC has a responsibility to provide social services, including electricity, not only in the Greater Banjul Area but also in the provinces and of course given that the generators there use light fuel, which is more expensive to generate electricity, makes it profitable to generate electricity in the provinces.”

Salary accounts for civil servants: a step in the right direction

By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
A recent statement from The Gambia government through the directorate of the National Treasury urges all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area from grade 2 and above to open salary accounts “through which their salaries will be paid”.
The new development has a lot of positive effects it can engender in the national economy, such as giving the banks greater financial intermediation, and enabling them to have more resources to lend to the people, which can spur investment growth and national development. It can also give civil servants a good track record of banking relationship as well as enable them to get loans from banks.
The association of bankers in the country has therefore lent its support to the initiative saying “it is a step in the right direction” since it will ensure all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area open salary accounts.
Pic: Mr. Mamour Malick Jagne, Executive Secretary of Gambia Bankers Association

“This is a most welcome move. It is a step in the right direction,” said Mamoud Jagne, executive secretary of Gambia Bankers Association (GBA).  “It is a means of incorporating all those who are not in the formal banking sector to come to the banking sector.”
Mr Jagne also encourages civil servants in the provinces that have access to banks to also open salary account.
“I would even encourage those who are not within the Greater Banjul Area, but they are in the provinces - in places that are not far from banks - to open salary accounts,” he said.
Outlining the benefits mass civil servant salary accounts would have in the economy and to civil servants, the GBA executive secretary said: “This has a lot of positive effects in the economy: It helps to strengthen the banking industry; it gives the banks greater financial intermediation, and it enables the banks to have more resources to lend to the people.
“Furthermore, on the side of the civil servants, it gives you a history of banking relationship, it enables you to get some loans from the bank, and it also gives you security of your funds and you can access it at anytime.
“This is a very good development and I will encourage everyone, whether in the civil service, in the parastatals or anybody who is earning an income to open an account and use the account so that you have a financial history with an institutions that in the day of need they can support you.”
Mixed concerns
However, since the announcement was made, many people have expressed concern and worries that the new development will give rise to congestion of banking halls and delay in receiving salaries, as lots of employees would swarm the banks at the end of each month to collect their salaries.
Some civil servants who spoke to this reporter on the issue, expressed dissatisfaction with the directives from the National Treasury, saying that apart from the hours they will spend at the bank waiting to receive their salaries, their take-home pay will suffer charge cuts and deductions that can be unbearable.  “Really I am not encouraged by the whole system,” said Fabakary Kujabi, a grade 4 salary earner.
However, Ousman Sonko, another government employee, said a salary account will make it possible for employees to have loan from the banks. “So it is a welcome move and it has come at the right time”.
The banks, it is expected, can live up to the challenge of serving the banking public and the mass of would-be salary account holders. “This is because the banks are businesses that are concerned about quality and efficient service delivery,” the GBA executive secretary said.
He added: “The banks are businesses and are concerned about the comfort and the quality of their services. I can say that the banks, as from now, will respond by making sure that people spend less time, and if they know that more people are coming they will employ more staff, and that alone have its own benefits in the sense that you employ more cashiers to attend to these people, and people will spend less time in the banks.”
The order of day in the region
Creating salary accounts for government employees is fast becoming the order of the day in many countries in the region, such as Malawi, whose government has just issued a similar directive that all civil servants in the country should open salary accounts; although many civil servants in that southern African country have so far condemned the move saying the banks will cut some charges from their already “small salaries”.
As similar fears as those of the Malawians loom large among government employees in The Gambia, the GBA executive secretary says favourable terms of accounts and their benefits can be differed from bank to bank.
“In The Gambia, we have 13 banks that are competing and I am sure if you go to a bank and negotiate your terms and conditions you will get a good deal that you can afford,” Mr Jagne argued.
“So I am not worried about that aspect of it because the competition will force the banks to give customers the best deal possible. When you go to any bank to open a salary account, you can negotiate with them and have a good deal.”

W/African Central Banks look at new currency control mechanism

Central Bank officials from the sub-region are charting out a new direction of maintaining qualitative banknotes and currency management that will ensure the durability and protection of national currencies from counterfeiters and other deficiencies.
Held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi, the five-day workshop that commenced yesterday, brought together senior central bank officials from The Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and other countries to study and dilate on the New Challenges in Currency Management, New Directions in Banknote Design, Security Features Against Counterfeiting, Forecasting the Demand for Banknotes, and Country Case Studies on Currency Management.
Organised by  the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), in collaboration with Dela Rue, under the theme: "Banknote and Currency Management and Forecasting in Central Banks", the workshop would not have been more appropriate given the fact that member countries' economies remain predominantly cash-based, reflecting the preference of economic agents, the weakness of the legal system to enforce contracts, and the level of development of payments in member countries.
"Thus, this maiden workshop could not have come at a more auspicious time, given the problems of currency management in our countries and the urgent need to chart a new direction consistent with best practices, in order to engender greater efficiency and minimize the cost of printing and minting currency," WAIFEM Director-General Prof Akpan H. Ekpo, said in his opening remarks on the occasion.
No central bank function is more visible than currency management, Prof Ekpo says, adding that a currency's integrity and efficient supply are unequivocal everyday indicators of a well-functioning central bank.
"In the eyes of the people, this integral central bank function should be efficient, meet demand and also present minimal issues which may damage the reputation of the country. Of particular concern is the issue of counterfeiting, which is as old as money itself, and continues to present a potential danger to national economies and financial losses to consumers.
"Worse of all, recent developments in photographic and computer technology, as well as printing devices, have made the production of counterfeit money relatively easy, thereby increasing the potential threat."

Currency management is a critical aspect of central bank's functions, says Hon. Amadou Colley, Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, while delivering the keynote address on the occasion.

"The integrity of the currency and efficient supply of banknotes are indicators of a well-functioning central bank, especially in preponderantly cash based economies such as ours," he said, "adding that issuing and destroying cash, maintaining note quality and guarding against counterfeit notes is a complex business and is increasingly costly."

Some organizations have responded to this growing trend by outsourcing currency sorting, he also notes.

The International Organization for Standardization (IOS) certification, he explains, ensures that minimum international quality standards are adhered to in the systems and procedures followed in an organization.

"Here, quality implies doing right things the right way, first time and every time," he said.

Touching on key elements in Banknote Design, Hon. Colley said: "For currency managers, note designs present a series of interlocking challenges. New designs must win public acceptance, incorporate requisite security features and meet durability and machine processing standards. Fitness standards for currency in circulation must be set and monitored whether currency sorting is carried out in-house or outsourced.

"The proliferation of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) has had a considerable impact and sharpened the focus for both commercial and central banks. The growing network of ATMs has also affected the composition shift from lower denomination notes to higher denomination notes.

"The banks do not find it commercially viable to stock the machines with lower denomination notes because they run out sooner and increase both the capital cost and operating costs."

The CBG Governor also dilated on the demand for banknotes, saying efficient and effective currency management commences with a strategic analysis of the currency life-cycle.

However, he observed, strategic management of currency "is impossible" without accurate forecasts of the demand for banknotes.

"The long lead time involved in banknote production makes it vital from cost and reputational point of view that central banks forecast the demand for banknotes as accurately as possible," he said, adding:

"Indeed, the benefits of accurate forecasting are obvious. It encourages more efficient procurement and reduces stockholding costs. In other words, a disciplined, balanced approach to currency management reduces opportunity losses and thus enhances the smooth functioning of the banking system."

Other speakers on the occasion included Mr Morf Ulrich of Orell Fussli Security Printing Limited and Mr Ehi E. Ekoyomon, MD/CE, Nigerian Security, Printing & Mining Plc.

Source: The Point

GTBank doles out D65,000 to ‘Smart Kids’ account holders

In a bid to contributing to building a brighter future for children of The Gambia, GTBank has continued to upkeep its business ethics by sharing with its ‘Smart Kids’ account holders to encourage parents to inculcate the habit of saving for their children.
Guaranty Trust Bank on Thursday disbursed D65,000 to twenty ‘Smart Kids Save’ (SKS) account holders as a way of “rewarding them for their patronage as well as instill the habit of savings into children.
Pic: Managing Director, Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Olalekan Sanusi
At the presentation ceremony held at the bank’s Jimpex branch, five of the twenty awardees were given a cheque for D2,500 each, for being the first people to nurture the confidence and trust in GTBank to open the SKS account for their children, and the fifteen were awarded cheques for amounts ranging from D1,500 to D10,000, based on how the account is managed.
SKS is one of GTBank’s superb accounts parents can use to save for the future of their children. It is designed to introduce kids to the habit of banking and to give them a sense of responsibility. The minimum opening balance of the account is D200.
“These children and their parents were selected based on criteria,” Olalekan Sanusi, managing director of GTBank explained.
“It’s is not based on how much money is in your account but how the account is managed. It is to award parents who every month, consistently, will put at least a token into this account and they don’t make any withdrawal; such parents need to be commended and encouraged. Parents who maintain very high level of balance in their [children’s] accounts and keep on adding more money are the ones we select to give them cash that they can add on to their SKS account.
“It’s our own little way of contributing to build a brighter future for their children and also to encourage other parents to emulate them in building a strong future for the children of The Gambia.”
He said further: “Also, we are awarding the five first people who opened the SKS account for their children because they are the first set of people who developed the confidence and trust in GTBank as earlier as 2002 to open the SKS account for their children with the aim of putting their children on a stronger footing.
“What each of you as a parent is doing is of great significance to the development of The Gambia as a country. In simple economic terms, savings is key to economic development of any country.  Every income you earn and save something aside helps the economic development of our children and the country at large. This is so because, the level of savings in a country actually determines the level of investment that can take place in that economy; the level of savings in an economy actually determines the amount of money at the disposal of the commercial banks to lend to those who want to invest, and the level of investment in turn determines the level of economic growth in every economy.
“Growth is a short term thing, consistent growth over a long period would lead to economic development and eventually development leads to eradication of poverty, and every government wants to put poverty into the dustbin and one way of putting poverty into the dustbin permanently is for every citizen to inculcate the habit of saving.”
The message of GTBank this year is: ‘Let’s all of us inculcate the habit of savings’.  MD Sanusi says that though it is difficult sometimes to sustain, savings is good for a person and once the habit of saving has been developed it can be sustained propelled by the benefits and merits that are gained from savings, which range from salvaging one in a rainy day to being able to develop the seed capital for investment.  “It’s only a game of determination,” Olalekan Sanusi noted.
With 15 branches across the length and breadth of the country, GTBank, the 3rd largest bank in The Gambia, has firmly positioned itself to meeting the banking needs of the people of The Gambia. In 2009, GTBank was the 2nd most profitable bank in The Gambia and is determined to meeting the banking aspirations of people across the length and breadth of the country.
MD Sanusi again: “We have been in operation for about nine years now and this year we will be in our ten years of operation in The Gambia. The Gambian society has been very supportive of GTBank, as they continue to patronize the bank.
“As we speak today GTBank is the third largest bank in The Gambia. We owe that to the Gambian people, who have developed confidence in us, because to patronise a bank there must be confidence that you have in the bank.”

Truth behind the collapsed of GPTC

The Management and staff of the defunct Gambia Public Transportation Corporation (GPTC) appeared before the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly, on Monday, to explain how the Corporation collapsed.
The Corporation, which was summoned by the two giant Committees of the National Assembly, gave accounts of  their audited financial and activities report, and also to explain the state of affairs of the institution as it was last audited more than 10 years ago (in 1998).

Speaking on what lead to the collapse of the Corporation, the Assistant Accountant of GPTC,  Dawda Dibba, who could not hide his frustration and disappointment, put all the blame “on bad management” which was introduced and enforced by the former Managing Director Momodou Jagne, now working at Gambia International Airline (GIA).
He explained that there have been a lot of problems facing the institution since 2001and before the departure Mr. Jagne, there were plans to purchased new TATA buses from India.
“These plans were turned down by Mr. Jagne and the Board of Directors,” Dibba said adding, that they (Mr Jagne and the Board) instead went for second hand buses purchased from Spain amounting to millions of Dalasis.
When the second-hand buses arrived from Spain, Mr. Dibba said he opted to hire more staff, but he was forced to go on leave for 10 months “unwillingly”. “Upon my return from leave, I found 100 new employees at the Corporation and there was also a big difference in the way funds were managed,” he said.
“Allowances were paid to Board members even without the board sitting and millions of Dalasis were spent on traveling allowances, while the staff were denied medical facility allowances and monthly salaries,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of GPTC Women Staff, Fatoumata Jallow, a Senior Staff told the committee that women were not motivated or empowered at the GPTC, regardless of their status as housewives.
“We have to contribute to the welfare of our families and children and also support our husbands for the basic needs of the children. Our working conditions at GPTC has gone from bad to worse as we are unable to pay for our daily needs due to lack of salaries and allowances,” she said.

Mr. Samuel Jarju, who read a Petition on behalf of GPTC Staff, said GPTC is operating only four buses at the airport for now and the interstate service (Banjul-Dakar), one of GPTC’s main areas of income generation has closed down since November 2009.

Jarju said GPTC depots across the country are with neither electricity nor water supply, making it extremely difficult for the staff to use the sanitary facilities. “Under these uncomfortable and unhygienic conditions, the staff still report to work, just to sit on the open air.”
“We cannot enjoy what our colleagues in other public institutions are enjoying and there have not been any salary increments for the staff in the last ten (10) years,” he said.

“The Staff are worried about the inability of the GPTC to contribute to the Social Security pension scheme for years now, saying that many pensioners are yet to receive their benefits, a situation which is even discouraging to the old aged staff.”

He said a total of D162, 800.00 was deducted from the members of the GPTC staff association and is yet to be recovered from the current management.

The Minority Leader and National Assembly Member for Kiang West Hon. Momodou LK Sanneh holds the Government of President Jammeh responsible for the collapse of GPTC. “GPTC collapse is a man-made problem because before the advent of 1994, the institution was in a good shape but it collapses during second republic,” he said.

He also blamed the staff and the management for “supporting the culture of silence” and failing to raise the alarm when they saw the institution going towards the wrong direction.

Gambia Competition Commission goes global

By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
The Gambia Competition Commission (GCC) on Friday launched its website designed to popularize the provisions of The Gambia Competition Act 2007 on prohibited business practices.
The object is to reach all and sundry, especially economic operators and other stakeholders in The Gambia and around the world.
With this website, the GCC is now represented on the ‘World Wide Web’, which allows information dissemination to a wider audience both in and out of the country.
The website,, is very innovative and it covers most of the issues on prohibited practices of interest to businesses, and also provides answers to the types of questions that one may ask about the Competition Act and the Competition Commission.
“The launching of this website is one of the many useful functions that the Competition Commission is mandated and discharging for the economic betterment of the country,” said the chairman of the Commission, Alhaji T.S Njie, during the official launching of the GCC’s website held on Friday at the Commission’s office in Kotu.
He explained further: “The launching of the website is the beginning of a very long process of establishing and fine-tuning the economic space that we have in this country that affects every one of us as well as generations of Gambians yet to come.
“This website is a very useful link between the Commission, stakeholders in the economy, policymakers, and the outside world including our trading partners, such that we can share information and establish communication channels that will enable us to achieve the very useful role that has been charged to the Gambia Competition Commission, which is to ensure the creation and the maintenance of a healthy competitive state throughout the economy of The Gambia so that businesses, both large and small as well as the consumers who are the ultimate targets of public policy, will benefit immensely from the expenditure of scarce resources that they have been able to mass up.”
With the website, all interested parties in the activities of GCC and the establishment of a competitive environment within the economy of The Gambia would be able to effectively interact in exchanging information in the lodging of complaints and in searching for guidance on how to channel complaints or any information that may be useful for the operations of business establishments.
The launching of the website, which will serve as advocacy tool, provides a ‘window of opportunity’ for the general public to upscale their understanding on what is happening at the Commission, said Ebrima Jobe, Officer-in-Charge of GCC.
“It will raise the awareness of stakeholders and the general public to appreciate the advantages of healthy competition and embrace competition as a complement to government’s effort in socio-economic development,” he said.
Good competition policy takes time and is costly to implement as it involves a major cultural shift, Mr Jobe says, adding that it is everybody’s business, not only the business of the GCC.
To achieve that, he says, building alliances with all stakeholders for meaningful collaboration is pivotal for the effective and efficient implementation of the competition policy and law.
“Competition policy and law is primarily designed to preserve unrestrained interaction of competition forces that will yield enterprise development through efficient levels of investment in innovation, adoption of new technologies and production process, and introduction of new products,” Mr Jobe notes.
“It also ensures that the market place remains competitive so that consumers will have more choice and that the range of options is not significantly impaired or distorted by anti-competitive practices.”
The launching of the websites has marked a quantum leap by the GCC towards the fulfillment of its vision of “levelling the field for development”, which is in line with the government’s policy of enhancing private sector efficiency, performing effectiveness and service delivery.
“The website therefore acts as an advocacy tool for GCC and a resource centre for all stakeholders,” said Nafie Barry, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment.
She added: “The website is indeed an innovative transformation as we interact in this new technological era.”

Theatre Troupe searching for talents in performing arts

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Ebunjan Theatre Troupe is looking for talented youths between the ages of 18 – 24 to undergo a fully funded (free) professional training in performing arts in order to perform a theatre entitled ‘Chains of Inspiration’, which is a dramatic presentation on the transatlantic slave trade.
‘Chains of Inspiration’ is a component of a $20,000 project financed by the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) and implementation is underway by Ebunjan Theatre Troupe, the executing arm of the Ebunjan Performing Arts Association, an NGO with a mission to develop and promote culture as a viable means for employment.
“In fulfillment of a major requirement of the project, Ebunjan Theatre Troupe is searching for talented youths who are interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts - drama, dance, and music,” a statement from the Theatre Troupe says.
“We are looking for youths who are interested in performing arts, and they must be people who can speak in public, they have to be punctual during the training, people who can cope with stress and be a team player, people who are fluent in English, energetic and flexible people, people who want to pursue performing arts as a career,” said Ebrima Ceesay, a member of Ebunjan Theatre Troupe and the National Coordinator of Children for Children Organization, while outlining the criteria that they are looking for in the youths who will partake in the training.
Janet Badjan –Young, the Artistic Director of Ebunjan Theatre Troupe said the training will start in April and will last for three months, “but interested persons can apply now because at the end of the day all the applications will be reviewed and applicants will be interview to make sure that they meet the criteria of selection”.  She said at the end of the process twelve (12) people who satisfied the criteria will be selected to undergo the training.
“We want the number to be few so that we can manage the training effectively,” the theatre guru said, adding that the training will be organized as a full day course, practical in nature, six days in a week.  “A team of international professionals in theatre and dance will provide the training,” she explained.
“The training is free of charge - they are not going to pay for it, we will give them transport and we may give them refreshment,” she continued.
The youths will be train on different areas of performing arts including; acrobat, body balance, dance, working together as a group, stage management – how you manage the stage during a play, voice production, how to speak without words, and so on.
The training will prepared the youths as actors and actresses who will do a theatre on ‘Chains of Inspiration’, which aims to inspire young and old with stories of bravery, courage, resistance, resourcefulness and determination of Africans, who survived the dehumanization era of the slave trade.
The play will highlight historical situations and events during the period of transatlantic slave trade; Africa before the slave trade, the tragedy of human trafficking and the contribution of former slaves to the development of Africa, Europe and America.
“We plan to make about 500 DVD copies of the theatre and distribute it to schools so that students can watch it and if possible it can become part of their curriculum,” said Maimuna Sidibeh of UNESCO.
As part of the project, a theatre is under construction at Kanifing Institutional Area which will not only provide space for training of the talented youths, but it will also serve as a professional venue for arts.
At end of this project, those who benefited from the training will have an option to continue training and working with Ebunjan Theatre Troupe under the direction of Janet Badjan-Young.

NAWEC refutes claim that Gambia have highest electricity tariff

by Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
NAWEC have disapproved the notion that Gambia have the highest electricity tariff in the sub-region. “Countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Liberia have higher electricity tariff than The Gambia,” said Mr. Jallow, the Finance Director of NAWEC.
He said most of the time when people said that electricity tariff in The Gambia is high compared to other countries in the sub-region, what they don’t tell other people is that the sources of production of electricity are different from country to country.
“If you take Ghana, for instance, where they use hydro to generate electricity which is far cheaper in terms cost of production you cannot compare that to a thermal power plant such as the one we used in The Gambia and naturally our cost of production will not be the same,” Mr. Jallow said.
He continued: “Just to give you a simple example, if you have a bottle (0.5 Liter) of water costing D10, but if you put NAWEC water inside the bottle you cannot charge the same price and there is a good reason for that.  The company that bottled this water have cost that they incurred before getting the water into the bottle and for them to be able to remain in business the least they could price for the bottle is their cost and of course to make further investment to expand they need to add some margin to the cost of production.
So naturally that is why they price the 0.5 liter bottle at D10, if you put NAWEC water in the bottle you cannot sell it to anybody for D10 because that is not the cost to NAWEC.  So this is a simple analogy, so if people are comparing let say electricity tariff in Gambia to Ghana they have to understand what the sources of production is and the cost related to that,”
NAWEC is mandated for the provision of electricity, water and sewerage service in The Gambia.  As a public enterprise NAWEC has not operated on a commercial basis in the sense that both water and the provinces are subsidised by the Electricity Division. Although NAWEC has achieved financial sustainability for its normal operations, it still lacks the resources to properly expand the electricity system. Due to this the system is ill equipped to satisfy the growing demand and needs substantial investment for maintenance and expansion.

Chief Executive Officer shares anecdote

By Lamin Jahateh, Staff Reporter
Banjul, The Gambia - The Chief Executive Officer of Gambia Women’s Finance Association, Oley Njie Mbye, shared the experience of her mum on how getting funds from financial institutions remains a herculean task for entrepreneurs, especially female petty traders who want to expand their small ventures to grease the economic engine and create, build and grow the economy.

Mrs Njie-Mbye said microfinance touches on almost everyone’s life. She gives an anecdote: “I grew up with humble beginnings with the most wonderful dad, we called him daddy cool .I saw my mother toiled and worked so hard, we called her JAMBARR. She was not only a household manger but also an entrepreneur who worked even harder than her male counterparts. Most of all she had a heavy load on her head as many household managers here in The Gambia and at the same time she had to make ends meet through petty trading.

“I remember growing up seeing her work tirelessly to expand her small venture into big dreams but this was challenging and almost impossible because she was not fortunate to have the tangible assets such as collateral for the loan needed to sustain her meager entrepreneurial venture.”

At that young and tender age, I thought about the concept of small loans without collateral for micro entrepreneurs but did not have the means or ability. But as I grew older , I became wiser and gain more wisdom, I learned about microfinance and since then I nurtured it and took up my mother’s energy and legacy, and my father’s spirits and prophecy that women are just as good as men if given the opportunity and access to funds.”
The Gambia’s money supply takes an upward swing PDF Print E-mail

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
The circulation of money in the Gambia economy has continued to increase vis-à-vis prudent monetary policy put in place by the Central Bank of The Gambia to control money supply excesses that usually lead to inflation.
Money supply (M2), which is a measure of the total money in circulation, increased by 19.4 per cent in December 2009 from 18.4 per cent in the preceding year, the latest report of the Central Bank of The Gambia has indicated.
The Bank’s 2009 report, which was recently presented at the National Assembly for adoption, states that the increase in money supply was on account of increase in both Net Foreign Assets (NFA) and Net Domestic Assets (NDA) of the entire banking system with the NDA growing at a faster pace.
Net Foreign Assets is the value of the assets a country owns abroad, minus the value of the domestic assets owned by foreigners, while Net Domestic Assets refers to a country’s commercial banks’ and/or its central bank’s lending to entities, private or public, within the country minus borrowing from those entities.
According to the report, broad money, which is a measure of the money supply that includes more than just physical money such as currency and coins, grew largely on account of the surge in deposits.
The report states that quasi-money, which include savings and time deposits, increased significantly by 30.3 per cent to D6.1 billion from D4.7 billion in December 2008.  “Savings and time deposit rose noticeable by 19.8 per cent and 45.1 per cent respectively.  Consequently, the share of quasi-money to broad money grew to 52.1 per cent at end-December 2009 from 47.7 per cent at end-December 2008,” the report says.
Narrow money (M1), currency outside banks and demand deposits, expanded to D5.6 billion or 9.4 per cent in 2009.  The report noted that both demand deposit and currency outside banks grew by 9.4 per cent and 9.4 per cent during the period under review.  The ratio of narrow money to broad money contracted from 52.3 per cent at end-December 2008 to 47.9 per cent at end-December 2009.
Increment of foreign assets of banks
The Net Foreign Assets (NFA) of the banking system grew by 10.5 per cent to D3.9 billion in December 2009 from D3.3 billion in the corresponding period a year ago, the CBG report observed, adding that the reason for this growth is due to a significant expansion in the NFA of the Central Bank.
Conversely, the report says the NFA of deposit money banks decelerated marginally to D0.7 billion or 11.9 per cent compared to a decline of 21.7 per cent in the previous year.  It also explained that the gross official reserves of the Central Bank rose from D3.0 billion in December 2008 to D4.9 billion in 2009.
Foreign liabilities of the Central Bank, according to the report, stood at D0.3 billion in 2008 compared to D1.7 billion in 2009.  The foreign liabilities of commercial banks in the country also increased by 47.9 per cent, during the review period, as a result of the marked increase in foreign borrowing.
Domestic assets of banks increase
The Net Domestic Assets (NDA) of the banking system rose to D7.8 billion from D6.3 billion in 2008 owing to the increase in domestic credit. Domestic credit grew by 16.4 per cent compared to 53.2 per cent in the preceding period.
The report disclosed that credit extended to government rose substantially by 78.5 per cent.
Growth in monetary base
The Central Bank uses monetary targeting mechanisms in the conduct of monetary policy.  In this regard, base money is used as the operating target while broad money and inflation are the intermediate and ultimate targets, respectively.  The Central Bank, in pursuit of its objectives of maintaining price stability and supporting the government’s overall macroeconomic objective of achieving accelerated and non-volatile growth for poverty reduction, sets its monetary targets in consultation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the Extended Credit Facility arrangements.
The CBG report reveals that base money, which is the amount of money in the economy, rose to D3.2 billion or 9.3 per cent in December 2009 compared to D2.9 billion or 5.7 per cent in the corresponding period a year earlier and slightly above the 8.6 per cent growth projected for the year. Consequently, it states that currency in circulation and reserves of deposit money banks edged up by 8.1 per cent and 12.1 per cent respectively.
The growth in base money was influenced by the Net Foreign Assets and Net Domestic Asset of the Monetary Authorities.
The NFA of the Central Bank rose to D3.2 billion or by 16.7 per cent in December 2009 compared to a contraction of 9.3 per cent to D2.8 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.  Gross official reserves and external liabilities of the CBG increased during the same period, according to the report.  In contrast, the Net Domestic Assets of the Monetary Authorities declined from D132.7 million at end-December 2008 to negative D60.1 million during the period under review, reflecting a marked decrease in domestic credit.
Domestic credit, credit granted to domestic agents – which includes individuals and companies inside the country, dropped substantially by 286.4 per cent to negative D292.7 million.  Credit to the private and public sectors declined by 80.3 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively.  Governments’ surplus position with the Central Bank increased markedly by 97.9 percent on account of a drop in gross claims and increase in government deposits.
The ratio between the Central Bank’s Net Foreign Assets and reserve money is an important lead indicator of possible pressures on the exchange rate.  A fall in the ratio could be due to excess liquidity which could lead to rapid credit expansion. The ratio of NFA to reserve money was 95.4 per cent in 2008 compared to 101.9 per cent in 2009.

National Assembly seeks over $14 million from donors; gets less than $1 million

Lamin Jahateh,  Banjul
The National Assembly of The Gambia is currently seeking, from both local and international donors, an amount of $14,388,097 representing 55% of the total amount of $26,253,812 that they need to finance the ‘Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly 2009 – 2014’.
The other 45% is to be financed by the government of The Gambia.
In other to raise funds to finance this five year programme, the National Assembly on Wednesday held an official resource mobilization, dubbed donors’ roundtable conference, at Kairaba Beach Hotel, geared towards soliciting the support of donors and development partners in implementing the first ever Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly.
However, the total financial pledge that was made public at the occasion was less than $1 million, most of which is from local institutions and individuals.  This is due to the fact whilst there are many international donors, in the country, who work in the field of governance, the number of donors working specially on the issue of parliamentary development is limited.  Also, majority of these donors are bilateral donors who may or may not be active in promoting good governance in The Gambia.
Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the President, the Vice President, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, said the government has always been fully committed for a vibrant, robust and pro-active legislative that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people.
Though no international donors, present at the occasion, made any significant pledge, the Vice President applauded them saying “your support and contribution in virtually all the sectors of The Gambia’s economy, including notably, the support you give or, are willing to additionally give towards strengthening legislature and governance, has our recognition.”
The VP said the Investment and Development Plan is one that sums up in a single documentation the strategic direction that the government wish to follow, to promote lasting excellence in parliamentary functions and capabilities.
“The development of such a Strategic Plan, which is by our standard, holistic and reflective of our needs, is therefore very important.  It is also very timely in that its implementation will become an added impetus to the huge capital investments that my Government has undertaken in recent times for the National Assembly,” she said, adding: “The most notable example here is, the ongoing construction of a multi-million dalasi, state-of-the-art National Assembly complex in the city of Banjul.  This complex, when completed will be second-to-none in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
She disclosed that the government has demonstrated attention to the National Assembly by effecting an increase in budgetary allocation to the National Assembly from D3 million in 1996 to around D40 million as at January, 2011.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, said the total cost of the Strategic Development and Investment Plan, which is over $26 million, includes the building and resourcing of new-state-of-the art National Assembly, to which the government of The Gambia has already provided funds for up to $10 million.
At the end of the programme, some local institutions and individuals has pledged in cash and kind including capacity building programmes and technical services to the National Assembly. The pledged was open by Minister of Justice, Edu Gomez, who pledges D5000, though he is yet to fulfilled a D10,000 pledged he made to the Young Journalist Association of the Gambia since the first quarter of 2010.

The Gambia Bankers Association, pledges D500, 000; Social Security and Housing Finance Cooperation (SSHFC) D300, 000; National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) D500, 000; Action Aid - The Gambia D100, 000; Pro-Poor Advocacy Group pledges capacity building package for the Parliamentarians for the next five years to the tune of  D500, 000.

Mass Axi Gai, Gambia’s Ambassador to Guinea Bissau pledges D2000; KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley D2000 and Matarr Baldeh of Education for All Initiative pledges to give D1000 annually for five years.

The National Assembly’s five years Investment Plan, which if fully funded, is expected to strengthening the capacity of the National Assembly to deliver its core functions and to ensure that legislations proposed by the government are scrutinized in a transparent manner.

Public rejects NAWEC’s proposed tariffs increment

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Most of the people at PURA’s Public Hearing held on Saturday at Father Farrell Hall in Westfield vehemently condemned the proposed tariff increase by National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC), the sole provider of electricity, water and sewerage services in The Gambia.
The Public Hearing, which was organized by the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), was meant to obtain public comment on an application that they (PURA) received from NAWEC to increase the current tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage services.
“PURA received an application from NAWEC on 27th December 2010 for an increase in electricity, water and sewerage tariffs,” said Mr Maleh Saine, Officer-In-Charge of PURA.
Pic: DoDou Bammy Jagne, Chairman PURA Board of Commissioners
He explained that PURA Act 2001 and the Electricity Act 2005 mandated PURA to consult with all stakeholders on matter of such importance and sensitivity that affect both the operator and the consumer.  “Initial consultations have also been held with Central Government, industrial and commercial consumers,” he said.
Mr Saine said PURA is mandated specifically under Section 18 of the Electricity Act 2005 which states that “the Authority may in accordance with the provisions of the Regulatory Authority Act determines, review, approve, modify or refuse the tariff and the terms and conditions of the service provided by licensees.”
“Through hearing your views it will enable us to arrive at a proper decision in ensuring that we have available, affordable and accessible services in respect of electricity water and sewerage services,” said Mr Dodou Bammy Jagne, the Chairman of PURA Board of Commissioners.
Mr. Alhagie Jallow, Finance Director of NAWEC, said the company is proposing certain prices for the different services; for Greater Banjul Area (GBA) “we are proposing 36% increment for electricity, 26% for water, and 27% for sewerage.” He said the objective of NAWEC is to provide affordable electricity, water and sewerage services to Gambian peoples.  “We know if we are to charge very high prices, under normal circumstance, it will not be affordable, and the objective of providing these basic services is to make it available and affordable to the people who are going to use them,” he explained.
When the Moderator of the occasion, Mr Peter Gomez, opened the floor for comments and questions relevant to the proposed tariff increase from the people, one speaker after the other strongly condemned the tariffs increment, but NAWEC said they are left with no other option given the ever increasing cost of both light and heavy fuel and lubricants, increasing cost of energy purchased from the Intermittent Power Producer (IPP), and high of cost labour and maintenance.
NAWEC officials said if the company is to remain in operation, they have to increase the tariff because “the current revenue base of the company is not able to sustain the company’s operational obligations resulting them to short term borrowing from commercial banks at exorbitant cost.”
Later on, as the program was coming to an end, the Moderator announced that those who are in support of the proposed tariff increase to raise their hand, but unfortunately, only two people raised their hands in support of the increment.
The comments and concerns of the people are to be incorporated for due consideration in accordance with Section 20(C) of the Electricity Act in making a final determination.
The Public Hearing is the sixth of the nine steps that PURA is to take before final tariffs come into effect.
However, shortly after the Hearing many people who spoke to Marketplace said that NAWEC has already reached a decision to increase the tariff, “so whether the people agree to it or not it will be increased, this is just a formality”, Ousman Gibba said.  “I know they will increase, but if they do that it is going to affect average Gambians, because many people are already struggling to pay for the current tariff as it is,” said Demba Jarju.
The last three steps before the new tariffs come into force is for PURA to take a decision with regard to the increment, publish the new tariff, and finally the tariff come into force.
Given the fact that the proposed tariffs increment was received with a strong condemnation from the general public will PURA give NAWEC the go ahead to increase the tariffs?

Gambia gov’t orders civil servants to open salary account

The government of The Gambia, through the directorate of National Treasury on Monday issued a public statement urging all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area from grade 2 of the government integrate and above to open a salary account, “through which their salaries will be paid.”
“This is in line with The Gambia government’s financial management reform objectives, and which are riding on a platform of efficient and effective services delivery,” the statement says.
“All civil servants who comply with this requirement are required to submit their account details to their respective accounts sections to effect the necessary changes on the government payroll,” the statement added.
According to the statement, this move will help to expedite the salary payment process, reduce the risk of cashier handling bulk cash, as well as providing civil servants the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of banking.
However, the statement did not indicate any deadline for opening the account, and it is not clear whether there is any repercussion for those civil servant who are eligible but do not open.
GTBank in ‘duel’ with former employee over D500,000 wrongful termination claim PDF Print E-mail

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Guaranty Trust Bank has continued to contest a D500,000 claim by its former employee Mam Nabou Sambou, who has sued the bank to court for wrongful termination of her services.

Mam-Nabou Samba, who was contracted to work for GTBank as transaction officer, is claiming special damages of D500,000 general damages for breach of contract, interest, and cost.

The ongoing trial between the plaintiff and the defendant proceeded on 7 February at the Industrial Tribunal in the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Dayoh Small Dago with the testimony of one Neneh Njie, a bank official at GTBank.

Asked by the defence lawyer Christopher C.E. Mene to explain when and how appraisal are done in the bank, since on the evidence of the plaintiff, her immediate boss is responsible for her appraisal; Neneh Njie, who claimed to be the immediate boss of the plaintiff, denied the point, saying that in GTB, appraisals are done every June by members of the bank.

“It is a process and in that process the appraisee, appraiser, a group head, MD, and an appraisal committee are involved,” Mrs Njie said, adding: “In this process, my recommendation is not the final stage but part of the process.”

At that juncture, reports were tendered by the defence to the witness to confirm whether they were the appraisal reports on the plaintiff, but Ms Njie said she would not call those reports appraisal reports since some of the exhibits were not complete.

The report on exhibit H, she said, stopped only at where she made her comments on her own evaluation of the plaintiff’s performance but had not covered up to where the final stage would end.

After the evidence of the witness, the case was adjourned until 15 February 2011.

Guaranty Trust Bank, through its Orange Rules, is committed to the growth of the individual and societal capital, the bank’s corporate statement states, saying the rules include simplicity, professionalism, service, friendliness, excellence, trustworthiness, social responsibility and innovation.

Businesswomen gearing up to tap the int’l market

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Gambian businesswomen are setting up a cluster that will bring businesses, particularly women businesses that are export-ready, to export to the international market, the American market in particular.
“This cluster will help us come together, put our resources and expertise together to access the international market,” said Amie Ceesay-Jaiteh, the proprietor and general manager of C J Enterprise, a company mainly involved in the business of exporting foodstuff (mostly fish) to the UK and America.   She opined that when this cluster is ready there will be much foreign exchange coming into the country.
“Exports make the economy more viable,” she said, adding “the American Embassy in the Gambia is helping us in that regard; they are encouraging us to export more into the US market.”
With many years experience in exporting, Amie said the American market is huge, so when exporting there normally they will ask for about 4-5 containers, which is very difficult for individual businesses in The Gambia to provide but with such a cluster, “we can put together our resources and expertise to export in larger volume”, and take advantage of such a huge market.
Challenges of exporting
Amie recounts some challenges she encounter in exporting: “Actually there are challenges because we take fish abroad most of the time that it is difficult. Sometimes we take the fish to Europe, supply to the customers and some of them don’t pay on time.  Sometimes you are there for a short period, say, two weeks. Some of them cannot gather your money and give it to you before you leave; they ask you to go, then they will transfer the money to you. You have to be calling them to send the money.  That sometimes holds us back.”
Asked how easy it is be exporting, Amie said: “I would not say it is easy because before you venture into export you need to get the market, you need to go and find your customers to be able to sell your products. So if you don’t have the market it is difficult to venture into it. If you see me doing it and you think you can also do it as well, you should have it in mind that it involves a whole lot of things being put in place. You have to get customers who are ready to buy from you anywhere you want to export to.
“Before venturing into business you have to do research and market feasibility study to see what product you would be interested in selling.  If you want to be an exporter it is even worth travelling abroad just to look for a market; you also have to go to the internet and search for wholesalers.”
The proprietor of CJ enterprise said exporting fish and agricultural products is something that she find “very interesting”.  “I was running my own restaurant after I returned from UK where I studied Tourism and Hotel Management and Catering,” she said.
Mrs Ceesay-Jaiteh continued: “The time I was operating the restaurant I used to go to the market to buy fish and vegetables to sell in the restaurant; I used to meet fishmongers and vegetable sellers; I saw the constraints they were facing at that time. For instance, when you want to buy tomatoes in the market you discover there are abundant tomatoes at some point because they are all harvested together at a time, the same thing holds true of other vegetables. The market also used to be flooded with fish sometimes.
“So I use to think of ways of helping these people; incidentally when I went to UK, somebody approached me and said they needed fish in their shop, so I started buying fish and packing them in suitcases for export to the UK, until they made a law in Europe that we have to pack them properly. So we started air-freighting the fish, but we were doing it through establishments that had export permit. As the demand increased, we started exporting in containers. We started with 20-foot containers, but now we use 40-foot containers because the demand is increasing by the day.”
Advice to Gambians
At the moment “things are very hard”, businesses are experiencing very difficult times globally. When things are difficult, “I think Gambians should help each other; if a Gambian is in business, let’s support the person”. Amie opined that this is the only way the country can move forward and improve our lives.
She called on all and sundry to support Gambian businesses because Gambians are going into lots of businesses that would have been dominated by foreigners. Gambians are in supermarkets, minimarkets, import and export, so let us support each other. If a Gambian makes money, it stays in the country; it makes the economy more viable.
For example, she said, there is a Nigerian shop in London, Nigerians are so proud of going to that shop to buy instead of going to other shops; they will support their fellow Nigerians.  So let’s do that - look at each other and support each other. That will take us from this level and probably it might reduce poverty because Gambians will be investing more in The Gambia and invest more in their families and that will lead to the growth of the economy.  That is something that we are lacking, let’s give that support to each other.

Gambia’s GDP growth slows down

Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
The growth of The Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced domestically in the country over a specified period, has drop from 6.3 per cent in 2008 to 5.6 percent in 2009. GDP includes income earned domestically by foreigners, but does not include income earned by domestic residents on foreign ground.
The growth of GDP from one period to another is an indication of how healthy the country's economy is.
The latest report of the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG), explained that the contraction in the country’s GDP growth “was due to the decline in the growth of agricultural output and the impact of global economic crisis”.  “However, this growth rate was higher than the International Monetary Fund revised forecast of output growth of the world economy, which is -0.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa in particular,” the report states.
The CBG report, which was recently presented to the National Assembly, by the Governor of Central Bank of The Gambia, Amadou Colley, noted that the Macroeconomics performance in The Gambia was solid in the past three years, evidenced by GDP growth rates of 6.0 per cent in 2007, 6.3 per cent in 2008 and 5.6 per cent in 2009.
“These growth rates are also within the 6 – 7 per cent range commonly used as a marker, if a country is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 2015.  Given the population growth rate of 2.8 per cent in 2007, average per capita growth for the past three years (2007 – 2009) was 3.2 per cent,” the report noted.
The Gambia has maintained macroeconomic stability amidst the global economic crisis with a flexible monetary policy, implementation of structural reforms and technical and financial support from development partners.
Growth in agriculture
The report indicated that agriculture, which is the mainstay of The Gambia economy, employing about 60 – 70 per cent of the workforce, grew on average by 6.2 per cent between 2001 and 2009.  “Low domestic production against the backdrop of myriad of factors including low agricultural technology, lack of inputs, and challenges involve in marketing the produce implies that the agricultural sector has not been able to address the food needs of county.  With a population growth of 2.8 per cent, average agricultural GDP growth was only 3.4 per cent,” it says.
Food inflation decelerates
Food consumer price inflation declined markedly from 8.6 per cent at end-December 2008 to 2.9 per cent in December 2009, attributable to the removal of import duties on some basic food items, and also enhanced supply.
The report observed that at the beginning of 2009, food consumer price inflation was 8.8 per cent.  It decline to 8.3 per cent in March, 6.7 per cent June, as well as 2.7 per cent in September, before edging up slightly to 2.9 per cent in December 2009.
Non-food inflation
Non-food consumer price inflation, which was at 4.7 per cent in January 2009, has increased slightly to 4.8 per cent at end-March before declining to 3.9 per cent in June and 1.9 per cent in September 2009.  “Non-food inflation rose gradually to 2.8 per cent in December 2009 albeit lower than 4.4 percent recorded the same period last year,” the report says.

SSHFC to roll out more homes for Gambians

By Lamin Jahateh, Banjul
Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) has revealed plans to roll out more housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama Jamisa.
Corporation has been providing affordable housing for thousands of Gambians through the numerous housing projects its housing finance fund is executing.
Some of its housing projects executed are the Bakoteh project, the Kanifing project and the Brusubi project.
The Bakoteh project provided 200 housing units of two and three bedroom houses that were allocated to Gambians under a mortgage arrangement of 25 years, though the period of the arrangement, which started in 1985, has elapsed.
Under the Kanifing project, 754 properties were also given under mortgage arrangement on a 25-year term.  All the three phases of the Brusubi project provided close to 3000 housing units, which were also allocated to Gambians.
“Currently we are working on housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and in Brikama Jamisa,” the Corporation’s Estate Manager Alhagie Fatty, said.
The Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama projects, whose works are ongoing, will collectively provide about 3000 properties, says Mr Fatty.
Land banking
As part of its strategy to decentralize its operations to other parts of the country, which is in line with the government’s Vision 2010 blueprint, the Corporation has embarked on land banking across the length and breadth of the country.
“We are extending our tentacles to other parts of the country,” Mr Fatty said. “We have already banked 19 sites and within few months’ time will be adding two more sites to make it 21 sites across the country - in all the growth centres for that matter - in cognizance of the fact that land is a scarce resource; so it is ideal that we start banking it now for our future uses.
“We are doing all these to close the gap of housing as this is the only avenue that some people can have access to housing, especially those within the low-income bracket, because if they should go to the open market, prices are high there, with arrangement they cannot satisfy.  Most of the private real estate companies often ask for one-off payment or an installment payment, which many people cannot afford.  In our own case, you put a deposit of 20% of the cost and then the balance we allow you to pay over the period of time.”
The SSSHFC housing scheme has benefited a lot of Gambians, especially owing to the manner and conditions the property are mortgaged to them. “The housing projects have benefited a lot of Gambians because when you look at Kanifing and Bakoteh very closely, likewise all projects that we have executed, you will definitely find people there who obviously if they were allowed to compete in the open market would find it difficult to own property in this country,” Mr Fatty said.
It is not only property owners who benefit from the Corporation’s housing projects but also the satellite communities around those areas, because whenever the corporation does a project, it also provide essential amenities in the area, which benefit all those living there, and contribute to making the property appreciable.
“When we bring road there, we bring electricity there, and we bring water, to help the people in the area,” he added, saying: “Our success stories include Brusubi. Those of you who know Brusubi in those days will definitely know that it is the Social Security project scheme in Brusubi that has turned things around in that area, and the coastal road that was built by the government contributed a lot to enhancing those areas as well.”
He reiterated:  “The Brikama, Jabang and Tujereng projects will follow the same trend. The moment those projects are fully operational, people will derive lot of gains from those projects, not only the prospective property owners but also people who live around those areas, because they will have their properties upgraded in terms of value.”
Criteria for land allocation
SSHFC has criteria in place in allocating land cardinal among them is citizenship; that is being a Gambian national.
“In a nutshell the rest is based on need and affordability,” Mr Fatty said.  In assessing your need, we try to be sure that you don’t own a property within the Greater Banjul Area and also verify whether you are really in rental property and in congested family dwelling.  We also look at your family size and consider your living status in the Greater Banjul Area.
“On affordability, we make sure that you are in gainful employment. It does not necessary mean you have to be in the civil service, but you must be doing something from where you earn your living, whether in business or whatever, in order to be able to demonstrate that you can pay the down payment when we allocate you a property as well as to be able to pay the monthly mortgage fee and also develop the land.  This is because we don’t want to give you a land and it continues to lie fallow for the rest of your life. So obviously we make sure that you have the capability to develop it.  We determine that by checking whether you have access to bank loan, access to loan from your employer, and whether you have savings.  Then we look at your status; that is the total family income - your monthly salary, your wife’s monthly salary, whether you have kids who are earning and how much they earn at the end of the month; we look at all these to judge your affordability.”
Clarification on costing
The Corporation also considers the cost of providing amenities in an area in pricing the property they mortgage to interested citizens.
Factors mainly consider include bringing basic amenities, such as electricity, road, and portable water, to an estate, which cost the Corporation a lot.
“When we acquire the land we naturally do the infrastructure.  Normally these lands are virgin land and they are far from social amenities and other services.  We therefore make sure that we use our own resources to bring the services over there; that is water, electricity and road.  We make sure that we really facilitate the water distribution network, distribute electricity across the estate to the doorsteps of all the people there, and also the road network, we make sure that we do the road network to standard,” Mr Fatty said.
He continued:  “When you go to Brusubi you see a network of tarred road there; all these things cost money and also when there is an issue of compensation, we foot the bill these are also other expenditure we incur.
“So, at the end of the day, these are the expenditures that we look at closely and add a little margin to it, to be able to arrive at the price that we charge for a plot.  We add a margin there because this is an ongoing process; so without any margin we will not be able to continue and replicate what we are doing so that those who are on the queue can have property from the SSHFC as well.”