Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: NO nation prospers by encouraging its citizens to get rich without hard work. No country excels through (rent collection) system. There cannot be a nation of moral giants where truth’s street value sits behind equivocation. A government where politics is a full-time job is assumed doomed from the beginning.
The Gambia’s tax ratio of 12.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is insufficient to build a strong economy. In the Gambia, the tax to GDP ratio is an unacceptable 12.4 percent of GDP. This is because we depend primarily on the Government’s direct revenue from Gambia Revenue Authority(taxes), grants, and Chinese and Eurobonds revenue. This has to change.”
This has to change! If it has to change, who is going to pay the tax? How will this change in a nation where the most lucrative venture is POLITICS with its ancillary activities, where politics of rent collection is the dominant culture, where young men and women of productive age become so streetwise to know the futility in playing by the rules of economic engagements?
Apart from salaried workers who have no chance of evading tax, who else in the Gambia pays tax in the real sense of the term? The Commission of Inquiry into Tax Evasion and other Corrupt Practices 2012 report revealed that the Gambia government lost over D2 billion from 50 selected taxpayers re-assessed on Income, Sales and Payee tax and D3, 838, 106. Eighty bututs for capital gains tax of 14 transactions of sales of leasehold properties. The report also exposed a severe flaw in the GRA’s assessment process and procedures, which deprives the Government of a large amount of much-needed revenue. It further revealed a remarkable anomaly in the taxation methodology and negligence by GRA in tax administration. The Gambia is one small country with little sense. A country that daily defies all known logic of economic appreciation. There are wealthy people in The Gambia. It has unbelievable natural endowments lacking in countries, Gambians love to worship. Yet, it is a study of poverty.
Fatoumatta: The situation cannot change if POLITICS is the highest paying job. It cannot as long as wealthy business people, lawyers, and politicians pay the middle class’s tax even as their trucks destroy our roads and daily maim and kill the poor. It cannot change, and we cannot interrogate our corrupt system because the money that funds corruption is no taxpayer’s money. It is nobody’s money.
To change the situation means to get society to pay the appropriate tax. Do you pay tax on militant ventures? Have you ever looked at the number of businesses that once dotted the landscape of Kanifing Industrial Estate and how many remain now are operational?
A friend’s uncle was said to have sold his business last year to vie for a seat in the National Assembly. He was said to have complained about meeting the monthly wage bill of his staff while daily holes bored in his pocket by diesel to power his business generator upped his blood pressure. So he sold the business, and heaven did not fall even after he lost the election. He has a compensatory appointment with the Government that is ensuring a steady flow of money without tears. If he has any headache again now, it is how to spend his easy money.
It is the tragedy we have to confront and conquer, or it will vanquish us. At all levels, people, without apologies, scramble to become our servants. Those with “the soaring swiftness of the eagle…” become chief servants while others cringe to pick crumbs under their tables. Those crumbs are still far richer in nutrients than the cereals of poverty harvested on the farms of stupid hard work. Living on Government at all levels is the new normal in the Gambia, and no one is alarmed. Indeed, governments at all levels and of all political parties enjoy having the situation so. It makes the people easy to govern here, and it is a capital offense to bite the finger that feeds one.
Here, every secondary school dropout wants to serve. He wants to be in politics and hold office. His profession is politics, and he tells you without shame. He cannot have any sense of shame because it is wise to invest wisely to get the highest return. His friends who chose to go to school and have a career will soon stoop before him, the politician. And we say the Gambia is not in trouble.
Fatoumatta: And the system encourages the red-light situation and, in fact, pays it handsomely. If you doubt, go to the Badibou and Niumi and the far North bank and check how many villagers are still foolish enough to farm or fish. So, when politicians sell the business to contest elections and youths abandon school for the Mediterranean Sea and the system gives fantastic remuneration for their criminality, how will things change for the better in the Gambia? Who pays tax to the Government?
Alagi Yorro Jallow