As the trial of strength between government and Banjul Breweries is getting exacerbated, the Minister of Finances and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njai, has finally broken his silence on a case that continues to generate headlines.
“The tax on Banjul Breweries is only for alcohol. It has nothing to do with other beverages,” he said during a question-and-answer session that followed the Public Lecture delivered on Tuesday by IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang at Kairaba Hotel in Kololi, some 11 km away from Banjul.
Banjul Breweries, a leading company in the country’s manufacturing industry, has recently threatened to shutdown its production line if government continues to turn a deaf ear to their demands and fails to reconsider the increase of the tax on local beer – which has jumped from 10% to 75%.
In an attempt to set the record straight, Gambia’s Finances Minister made it clear that the tax levy proposal on local beer did not emanate from an unilateral decision, noting that it was endorsed by the National Assembly after a thorough consideration.
“This process to raise the tax on alcohol went through a debate,” he said while indicating that their door is still open for dialogue.
Njai added that there are ongoing talks with the Ministry of Trade, the National Assembly Select Committee and Banjul Breweries.
He further stated that Gambia’s tax on alcohol was the lowest in the West African sub region.
Meanwhile, a Banjul Breweries position paper on the increase of excise duty on domestic produced beer, sounded the alarm bell over the move taken by government.
Endorsed by the Secretary General of the company, Fatou Sinyan Mergan, she emphasized in the said missive that sales on beer products constitute more than 50% of the overall turnover of their business.
She expressed deep concerns about the tax hike on local beer and warned: “unless the 75% tax on locally produced beer is revisited and addressed urgently, the continued decline in the brewery sales will force the brewery to take the following measures: a reduction in the company’s workforce, a scale down in its operations and could even result in a shutdown of operations. ”
Written by Abdoulie John