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Businessmen Express Concern on Economy

Jul 7, 2008, 6:33 AM | Article By: By Baboucarr Senghore

Gambian and non-Gambian businessmen have expressed frustration at what they describe as high duties and taxes on the re-export trade system of the country, calling on the authorities to reduce the rates for a more competitive business.

According to a survey carried out by this paper over the weekend, many concerned individuals, businessmen, bankers and economists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, complained of a very slow sales in business, as is the economy in general. "The re-export trade is virtually dead because of the high duties on imported goods and this has made it very rare now to see people in the sub-region coming to The Gambia to buy goods," said a concerned businessman.

In the view of an economist who also spoke to this paper, the business community is no doubt worried about the effects that the current situation in the country's re-export trade could have on the survival of indigenous Gambian businesses. "Unless we review our duties and taxes, our goods would remain high in prices, thus making our business not to be competitive in the sub-region because of the high rate of taxes and duties," he opined.

Another businessman along Ecowas Avenue (Buckle Street) said: "You see at first this street was busy because of the number of lorries coming from the sub-region but now the place is virtually empty and some shops here are currently vacant."

For one Mr. Bass, a renowned businessman, there is the need to develop a reliable competitive market for our re-export trade and to make this possible, certain number of challenges needs to be overcome.

These challenges, he went on, include ensuring intensive reduction of taxes and duties to maintain reliability and safety for effective competition within the sub-region.

According to a banker who also spoke to this paper, the only way forward is to ensure the provision of an efficient, safe, economic and reliable movement of goods and people, combined with a massive reduction of duties and taxes.

"While it is important to mention that the economic performance of this country is raising hopes of a possible turnaround, it must also be noted that creating an enabling environment that prioritises effective re-export trade is a critical pre-requisite for economic development and poverty reduction," he asserted.

Some commercial drivers who spoke to this paper also complained about low business since the increment of fuel prices. "We are running at a loss, many taxi drivers are losing their jobs due to the low rate of business these days," they bemoaned.

The need for an effective supply and distribution chain for both local and international trade has created new opportunities and challenges for the nation. The government's strategy of developing open borders over the years, combined with generally favourable economic conditions, has no doubt resulted in substantial growth in the country's re-export trade system.

However, the importance of economic competitiveness, especially for our re-export trade, has raised issues such as the generally slow pace at which the economy of the country is moving at the moment.

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