Debt payment consumes 47% Gambia’s revenue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Minister of Finance Amadou Sanneh has said that the debt financing consumes 47 percent of the country’s domestic revenue; a situation he described extremely high.

“This is a challenge that has been inherited from the former government but one that we cannot just throw away,” he told reporters at the State House yesterday evening.

Minister Sanneh said this in reaction to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) report on its 2017 Article IV consultation and Review mission from Washington, DC, to The Gambia.

Mr. Ulrich Jocoby, the head of the said Mission among other things said the country’s heightened debt stock of 120% of the GDP continues to pose serious challenges for new government.

“Maintaining debt sustainability will necessitate refraining from large-scale investment projects involving loans and contingent liabilities before additional fiscal and borrowing space has been achieved, and leveraging private capital,” Mr. Jacoby said. 

Key highlights of the report include:

•           Economic growth projected at 3 per cent in 2017

•           Headline inflation to decline below 5 percent

•           Economic growth to accelerate to about 5 per cent by 2020

The economy has started to recover following the sharp growth slowdown in 2016

Performance to date under the Staff Monitored Program has been broadly encouraging, but more progress is needed

The Gambia’s heightened debt stock of 120 percent of GDP remains a serious challenge

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Ulrich Jacoby, visited Banjul during November 2-15 and December 7-13, 2017, headed to conduct Article IV consultation discussions and review performance under the Staff Monitored Program (SMP) approved in June 2017. 

At the end of the mission, Mr. Jacoby issued the following statement:

“The economy has started to recover following the sharp growth slowdown in 2016, which stemmed from a bad harvest, foreign exchange scarcity, and a drop in tourism due to the political turmoil after the presidential elections in December 2016.  Economic growth in 2017 is projected at 3 percent, with a strong rebound in tourism and trade, and renewed interest from foreign direct investors in energy, tourism, agriculture and transportation. Inflation has reversed its rising trend, reflecting the stabilization of the dalasi and a gradual decrease in food prices. With much improved fiscal discipline and external financial support, the dalasi has remained stable since April and international reserves recovered strongly.

“Economic growth is expected to gradually accelerate to about 5 percent by 2020, assuming continued good policy implementation and a significant expansion in electricity supply, expansion of irrigation and commercial farming, investment in the tourism and trade sectors, and continued infrastructure investment. Headline inflation is expected to decline to slightly below the Central Bank of The Gambia’s (CBG) 5 percent target in the medium term.

“Performance to date under the Staff Monitored Program has been broadly encouraging, but more progress is needed.  The drastic reduction in government’s net domestic borrowing—stemming from increased donor support, fiscal consolidation and the recent pick-up in domestic revenue—has contributed to the decline in interest rates.  Looking ahead, the authorities will need to maintain fiscal discipline and implement the remaining fiscal and structural measures committed to under the SMP. 

“The Gambia’s heightened debt stock of 120 percent of GDP that the new government inherited is a serious challenge. Maintaining debt sustainability will necessitate refraining from large-scale investment projects involving loans or contingent liabilities before additional fiscal and borrowing space has been achieved, and leveraging private capital. Careful evaluation and prioritization of investment projects within the due diligence procedures of the Investment Implementation Task Force will be crucial in that regard. Mobilization of additional external resources to foster debt sustainability and implementation of the authorities’ debt strategy will be important to create borrowing space.

“Reform of public enterprises remains critical as they pose significant fiscal risks and contribute to high public debt. The mission welcomes ongoing reform efforts which should continue, including medium-term strategic plans for achieving financial viability.

 “The CBG should continue maintaining a flexible exchange rate regime and further rebuild reserves, given external vulnerabilities and the high debt. Safeguarding the stability of the financial sector in light of the decline in interest rates is also a key priority. 

“Access to financing remains the most important obstacle to doing business, and private sector credit growth remains sluggish despite the decline in interest rates. Promoting credit information systems and financial literacy as well as strengthening creditor rights and their enforcement would help support private credit growth.

“The mission met with President Barrow, Finance Minister Sanneh, Central Bank Governor Jammeh, other senior government and public enterprise officials, members of parliament, representatives of the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.

“The mission thanks the authorities for their excellent cooperation and hospitality, and looks forward to close cooperation in the period ahead.” 

Author: Sanna Camara
Source: Picture: Mr. Ulrich Jocoby & Amadou Sanneh Finance Minister