|Finance Minister Abdou Kolley observed that Gambian ministries are fond of initiating programmes that are not budgeted for|
The Minister of Financial and Economic Affairs, Mr. Abdou Kolley has warned government ministers, their institutions and the national assembly “to strictly stick to the approved national budget for 2013”.
Mr. Kolley, who was speaking on December 4, 2012 ahead of the national assembly debate on the draft budget estimate for the fiscal year 2013 already approved by the assembly in Banjul, the Gambian capital, observed that ministries are fond of initiating programmes that are not budgeted for – as a result straining government spending within the stipulated budget.
He charge government ministries and other institutions to prioritise their projects and programmes in order to minimize spending beyond the monies allocated to them.
It is very important at this time to prioritise on our programmes and projects we intend to implement for the people of this country, he warned, also suggesting a cut down on our spending and avoid initiating “unnecessary” programmes or projects that are neither sustainable nor have an impact on the livelihoods of the average Gambian.
Let’s use our budget according to how it is approved for all sectors, he emphasised.
“We don’t anticipate seeing sectors coming forward to request for additional budgeting after the approval of the 2013 national budget,” he said - apparently referring to the usual yearly request to the national assembly to approve a supplementary appropriation bill.
“Let do what our budget limits us to do than requesting additional funding and making it very difficult for the government to fund,” he said.
He said in order to successfully implement the IFMIS (a data base monitoring system for all government accounts) and our programme-base all sectors should have a straight strategic action plan.
In recent years The Gambia government has routinely claim under budgeting. With less than three months to the end of 2012, the national assembly approved an additional funding close to D500 million upon the government’s request through a supplementary appropriation bill.
“All these spending pressures were not anticipated in the formulation of the current (2012) budget,” argues Minister Kolley who claimed the additional funding of D470, 701, 622 was as a result of the finance ministry facing “urgent spending pressures”.
It’s now a normal phenomenon in Gambia that year-on-year the government will seek through the National Assembly approval to take an additional fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund– the main government bank account.
In 2009 and 2010 the government has taken more than D300, 000, 000 (three hundred million Dalasis) and D100, 000, 000 (one hundred million Dalasis), respectively, upon approval by the country’s national assembly.
“More than 20% (percent) of the government budget goes to the repayment of interest charges on government domestic borrowing,” Minister Kolley admitted on December 4, 2012.
He reiterated that there is the need for government sectors and ministries to stick to their budget in order to help government in its drive to reduce domestic borrowing and high interest rates levied on government domestic borrowing.
The Gambia, a tiny West African nation of 1.7 million ranked among Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) - still faces a heavy debt burden as the debt forgiveness grant for the country was last reported at US $1330000 in 2010, according to a World Bank report in 2012.
“Poverty is endemic in Gambia, with almost a third of the population undernourished and 60% of the population living on less than a dollar a day. And yet the country spent 6.3% of its Gross Domestic Product on servicing its debts, some $29 million, in 2005,” the World Bank says.
In an address to the United Nations 67th General Assembly in New York on September 26, 2012, Gambia’s vice president Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy admits “Debt servicing still poses a major threat to our ability to attain sustainable growth.”
She even suggested that debt cancellation or forgiveness is still a major option in order to help developing countries like The Gambia to continue to benefit from the appreciable growth they are experiencing and as well compromise their capacities to bring education and healthcare to their peoples.
Written by Modou S. Joof
- The Voice newspaper journalist Amadou Bah contributed to this story