Civil servants in The Gambia now have all the reasons to smile as the government has budgeted D25 million to be given out as development loan to civil servants starting from January 2013.
The Civil Service Loan Scheme will help civil servants to supplement their meagre salaries and empower themselves economically.
However, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, who disclosed the scheme, has said the loan will only be provided to qualified civil servants, though he is yet to publicly establish the criteria that will be used to know who is qualified.
He has not also said whether the loan will be interest-free or not.
Finance Minister Abdou Kolley disclosed this escape-poverty loan scheme on 3 December 2012 at the National Assembly in Banjul while presenting the 2013 Annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure of the Government of The Gambia for the fiscal year January to December 2013.
However, some people have doubted the scheme’s sustainability and also raised fear that it might be politicised.
Nevertheless, if properly done, the plan could work as a deterrent to brain drain from the civil service that has for a long time seen government employees seek greener pastures in the private sector or abroad.
Revenue projected to increase by 13% in 2013
The total revenue and grants of The Gambia government is projected to rise by 13.1 per cent in 2013 to D6,528.2 million, the Finance Minister told the National Assembly Members.
“This is principally due to the 18.4 per cent rise in tax revenue,” he said.
The drivers of this increase in revenue will be income tax, both personal and company, as well as import sales tax on non-oil items and collection from the replacement for sales tax - the Value Added Tax - to be effected in January 2013.
The Finance Minister said these forecasts assume Gambia Revenue Authority will continue to make improvements in compliance levels.
He noted that non-tax revenue is expected to rise by 4.8% to D598.7 million. Grants are expected to almost double the 2012 levels to stand at D2.2 billion.
“Within a weak global economic environment, revenue projections for 2013 have been cautious,” he said.
On the other side, the Finance Minister said total expenditure and net-lending is projected to rise from D6,719.3 million in 2012 to D7,398.9 million in 2013, an increase of 10.1 per cent.
He said personnel expenditures are projected to increase by 8.6 per cent to stand at D1,861.7 million.
He said Gross Budget Balance is projected as a deficit of D870.7 million down from D951.4 million in 2012.
In terms of financing this deficit, Hon. Kolley said net domestic borrowing is projected to be limited to D340 million in 2013, around 1 per cent of GDP.
Reducing net domestic borrowing is a critical step on the path to eliminating net domestic borrowing and putting the national budget on a sustainable footing.
He confirmed that interest payments currently consume around 22 per cent of government revenues.