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No entity will be allowed to hold Gambia to ransom, Trade Minister says

Nov 23, 2015, 10:06 AM | Article By: Osman Kargbo

The Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has reiterated his ministry’s position against businesses or entities that would want to hold The Gambia to ransom, in seeking their interest to the detriment of other business sectors of the country.

“The government will not entertain any entity that wants to create problems for the smooth flow of the country,” Trade Minister Abdou Jobe said on Thursday at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agencies (ACFA), held at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

Minister Jobe cautioned business interest groups againstimpedingthe smooth flow of business in the country.

“We have had situations wherein transporters would want to hold the country to ransom in terms of transportation and system; that would not be tolerated,” he said.“We would encourage everybody, but anything that is done that does not encourage and facilitate smooth transportation in the interest of all of uswould be curbed seriously.

He said further: “We are going to ensure that they [the transporters] are systemised. There is a structure, and also they would be encouraged to do a similar thing to what ACFA did.That is, making sure that they have a constitution, disciplinary operating procedures which are documented so that they would then be monitored and evaluated based on their own dispensation to ensure that things flow; not anybody just comes, free for all, and then it affects the competitiveness of the country.”

The Trade Minister commended ACFA for making a “monumental leap” in creating a constitution that would put in place sound structures to ensure the smooth flow of the association, as well as provide better service in the clearing and forwarding business.

He encouragedmembers of ACFA to continue to better organize themselves as they render “an important service” in the flow of international trade between The Gambia and the world.

“Without importers and exporters, a lot would not happen with regard to trade in this country,”the trade minister said.

“You are as important as anyone of us. It is amazing that you have established a constitution, structures and committees.”

Minister Jobe, however, urged the association to upgrade the capacity of its members to be able to keep correct information and data, which improves the flow of business and enhances growth and development in the country.

“My job is to work with people and move this country to achieve our objective,” he said, adding: “We want to enhance trade. As a government our doors are open; you are welcome. Wherever you see the government, especially the Ministry of Trade, doing anything that you think can be done better, you are welcome to come and tell us.

“If you see that a policy or a procedure or programme has a negative impact on our competitiveness, come and tell us, because none of us has monopoly over the knowledge to run the trade affairs of this country; we all have a stake in it.

“Government will work with GRA to provide more support for you, to continue scaling up your skills.”

In his report, ACFA secretary general Sulayman Joof commended both public and private institutions that have been of great help to the association over the years.

He singled out Gambia Revenue Authority, Gambia Ports Authority, Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, and Gambia Chamber of Commerce,and Industry for their support to the association.

Mr Joof urged ACFA members to redouble the efforts and continue to provide better service to the customers.

“As customs agent registered and licensed, you have to satisfy both customs and customers by ensuring that our customers comply with customs regulations in submitting required documents and paying appropriate duty and taxes. At the same time, care is needed to ensure that goods are classified accordingly for us to have accurate data and for the goods owner to pay the right duty and taxes and receive his/her goods on time and in good order.”

Members of the association were assured of the “full support” of GRA and GPA in discharging their duty.

GRA Commissioner Alieu Ceesay said: “On the part of GRA, we will continue to support your agencies by providing the necessary tools and facilities to those agents that are honest and tax compliant.

“However, let me also say that punitive actions, as prescribed by law, will equally be taken against those found wanting and dishonest. We should, therefore, try as much as possible tobuild thatbridge of trust and professionalism that is needed in achieving our main objective, which is basically the maximisation of revenue collection for central government.

“Let me assure you of the authorities’continuous supportto both do your work effectively and also participate fully in the facilitation of international trade.”

GPA and GCCI officials at the meeting also reassured ACFA members of their full and professional support in the dispensation of their services in the country.