Sep 8, 2021, 3:10 PM
The clock is ticking fast. Gambians will head to polls on December 4th to elect a new president. This election is very crucial and important as it is the first-ever in the post-Jammeh era.
It’s only 10 countries who have introduced tax levy at airports. The Civil Aviation officials should have a meeting with the stakeholders of the tourism sector concerning this plan. The honourable minister of tourism Hamat Bah in January 2018, when it was introduced, he and his staff categorically rejected the proposal for every passenger to pay 40 dollars.
Mr. President, the tourism sector is the second foreign exchange earner of The Gambia after agriculture and it represents 20 percent of our GDP. It creates jobs both directly and indirectly with over hundred thousand workers in the sector. There were about 200 thousand tourists who visited The Gambia for the past three years of which 50% percent were British.
Mr. President, it is totally illegal, according to the laws of The Gambia, businesses levy and rent should not be paid in foreign currency. Local levy should be charged in local currency and not foreign currency.
It is not even fair for tourists coming from Britain and other countries who don’t have their currency in dollars to come to the airport and change it to dollars in order to pay the tax.
At the airport, there is only one forex bureau and paying in dollars can cause a lot of inconvenience and even paying the tax levy will discourage tour operators and tourists who come to The Gambia because we have tough competition in the sub-region.
Mr. President, the best bet is for your government to scrap the levy soonest without wasting time.
If the levy stays, it will hamper our tourism business and many people who want to come to The Gambia for business will be discouraged whilst people visiting Gambia will be using the Senegalese airport and come by road to The Gambia.
The levy of $20 will only make The Gambia less competitive as a tourist destination especially during these times of global recession. Airlines are also regaining strengths after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and this can cause many to close operations in The Gambia.
Mr. President, rather than increasing cost, we should be reducing cost to attract tourists. The Gambia should focus on regaining confidence and that requires improving on the quality of our products and making it more competitive otherwise we will lose out to other competing destinations.
Mr. President, we thank God to hear from the minister of Health Dr. Samateh that the number of positive cases has reduced to 20 percent due to low turnout of test.
This is very encouraging and your government should do all it takes to make sure all the basic materials and equipment that the ministry of health needs are available; it’s important for people to be encouraged to go for voluntary testing. People should also not be complacent but keep honouring the WHO rules and preventive measures.
According to the latest update, by the time of going to press, the country has recorded 3,405 cases,103 deaths and 1, 723 recovered.
Finally Mr. President, your government should consider opening all markets and businesses in the country at the same time from 7 to 5pm.
In reality, business in general is very dull and vendors and businessmen are suffering.
Even if the curfew is lifted, the security forces should continue their good job by continuing patrolling and tracking criminals in the country.
Mr. President, traders of rice and sugar are unable to buy any forex exchange because of non-availability and we understand the authority has been contacted to intervene but nothing has been done.
Mr. President, since the contract of voter registration and elections materials were awarded to ESI, a Canadian company for US$3 million last month, there should not be any more time wasting for IEC to start the registration process in earnest.