‘Gov’t budget still short by D1 billion’

Monday, July 17, 2017

The 2017 budget of The Gambia government is still in deficit of about D1 billion, although the Ministry of Finance has been able to mobilise about D3.7 billion in budget support.

“The 2017 budget of the government has a deficit of D4.7 billion.  This means looking at the 2017 budget and the resources available in our framework, there is a deficit of D4.7 billion,” said Lamin Camara, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.

Mr Camara said the Ministry of Finance has been capitalising on the international goodwill towards the democratically installed government in Banjul to fill in the budget deficit.

“With this new dispensation, we are now filing the deficit with support, mobilising resources from multilateral agencies and other development partners,” he said.

The looking out for budget support has paid dividend as about US$100,000 has been mobilised so far: US$56 million from the World Bank, €25 million euros from the European Union, and US$7 million from the African Development Bank.

“But you realise that when you put all these million dollars and euros together and convert to dalasis, it is not up to D4.7 billion deficit that we have in the 2017 national budget,” the permanent secretary said.  “It means we have to still mobilise roughly another one billion dalasis to be sustainable by December 2017.”

Analysts said the government must either mobilise the extra D1 billion through more additional resource mobilisation or resort to costly domestic borrowing to finance the deficit.

The Gambia government had agreed with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that the government’s domestic borrowing should not surpass 1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, if the economy is to be sustainable.

Austerity beyond 2017

The struggle of the government in mobilising resources for the 2017 budget is not a good omen for 2018.

“If we are struggling in 2017, we have to even do more in 2018 in terms of mobilising resources and that is where my concern is,” PS Camara said, adding that efforts in mobilising resources and the output realised is an indication that government has to trim its jacket according to the weather, not just its size.

“It means we should not be on support, support, support only; we have to be seen as a country to also go into reforms to cut down some expenditures that are unnecessarily high, we have to reduce expenditure to match the revenue in hand,” he said. 

In the drive to match the government expenditure to the available revenue, one of the first things being considered is reduction of the number of government vehicles.

“There are so many government vehicles and what goes into the maintenance and fuelling of these vehicles is colossal,” Camara said.  “Reducing the vehicles would mean reducing the fuel cost and reducing maintenance, so that is one area we can zoom in as a government to at least reduce our expenditure.” 

In other countries, reducing the overseas travels of ministers and other senior civil servants has always been a viable option in reducing bloating government expenditure.

But PS Camara said overseas travels are controlled but “if a travel is related to bringing something good, you cannot stop that”. 

“Some travels lead to resource mobilisation, bringing something to the nation; I think that is good and understandable; you cannot stop such travels,” he affirmed.

Other areas that are being considered for austerity is personnel emoluments and resizing the diplomatic mission so that the government can make-do with the available resources in 2018 to avoid the deficit of the magnitude of 2017 and to also avoid adding to the heavy debt burden of the country.

Author: Lamin Jahateh
Source: Picture: Finance PS Lamin Camara