Concerned by the rising prices for food and other basic commodities, the Trade Committee of Gambia’s National Assembly Wednesday, invited stakeholders responsible for shipment and food safety and quality authority. The meeting followed the skyrocketing of basic commodities in the country.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation, which recently visited The Gambia, has noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, has significantly affected The Gambian economy. IMF further noted that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was estimated at zero percent in 2020.

It says inflation has subsided from 7.7 percent (year on year) at end-2019 to 5.7 percent at the end of 2020, partly reflecting weak domestic demand.

Now consumers are having their own share of the economic downturn.

Yakumba Jaiteh is a nominated Member of Parliament.

“The reason the committee is inviting you, it is because we are in COVID and we are all concerned about the prices particularly for essential commodities and any other such levy on these commodities would increase the prices and the increase in prices is for the consumers to bear, all of us to bear,” MP Jaiteh remarked.

The price for a bag of rice, which is Gambia’s main staple food, has increased for the affordability of the average consumer. Prices for Sugar, cooking oil, and other basic commodities have also jumped the roof.

Committee Chairman Muhammed Mahanera spoke at the meeting.

“It comes to the notice of the committee that these two institutions also are planning to levy some duties on the importation of essential commodities. So, the committee deems it necessary to call the witnesses if they can give us any justification regarding this,” Mahanera told the stakeholders at the meeting.

The Director General of The Gambia Maritime Administration Karamo Bakary Janneh told the meeting that he is not aware of any new taxes leveled against importers. He said there are some bad actors operating outside the Maritime Administration.

“Now they don’t want to forgo anything from the 600 Euros, and you want to put levy on Gambians to pay another local charge in this country, which we have not been charging before. Is like what we have stopped charging, you are now charging it behind the scenes as it is a GMA tax, there is nothing like GMA tax,” the DG of The Gambia Maritime Administration remarked.

Trade Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Abdoulie Jammeh thinks that the lack of regulation for shipping agencies is responsible for the price hikes.

“The shipping agencies in this country, they are not regulated, and we have observed that they have come up with a number of charges and if you look at the name of those type of charges, some of them they are not providing the charges and we felt that that should not happen,” Deputy PS Jammeh lamented.

Momodou Bah, the Director General of Gambia’s Food safety and quality authority has denied that his agency has leveled new taxes on food importation. He said his office is merely doing what it is tasked to do.

“As far as the Food Safety and quality authority is concerned, we have not introduce any new tariffs when it comes to essential commodities. The only existing tariffs are the inspection charges,” said Mr. Bah.

The economic downturn has also hit hard on Gambia’s construction industry. Prices for cement has also increased.

IMF notes that Gambia’s economic growth is estimated to have decelerated from 6.1 percent in 2019 to zero percent in 2020. This was partly attributed to what it called a sharp decline of the tourism sector.

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