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Monday, June 6, 2011

Gambia’s Roof-Top Debt Stock Troubles IMF

By Abdoulie Nget 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has voiced-out concerns over Gambia’s roof-top debt stock, but failed to disclose the height of indebtedness, which on domestic front, alone, stood at over D20 billion as at Dec. 2010.  
The announcement follows the leading world financial body’s team of experts’ two-week long assessment of Gambia’s economy.  
Meshack Tunee Tjiringo, IMF resident representative Wednesday told a news conference held at UN House in Bakau, that Gambia government’s heavy debt burden poses significant challenges to the country’s anticipated growth.
“Financing of Gambia’s Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) will pose significant challenges in light of the country’s already heavy debt burden,” Meshack said.
Notwithstanding, he said, IMF will support Gambia’s vision of accelerated growth and employment creation under the new IMF Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement, which Gambian authorities have requested.
He also pledged to assist Gambia government in reducing net domestic borrowing to about 2 percent of GDP in the current year and near zero debt by 2014.
This, however, will require a gradual, but steady fiscal adjustment, including a reversal of the decline in government revenues in recent years and firm restrain of spending, Meshack said.
The good news
Overall, Gambia’s economy is not doing badly and the long-term outlook is positive. The gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to register a five and half percent growth in 2011, the IMF official forecasted.   
He said, “Gambia’s economy continues to perform well due to the income generated from a strong season of agriculture, particularly in rice and groundnut production.”
Tourism, though, is suppressed owing to the lingering effects of the economic slowdown, is expected to pick up later in the year, he added further.
Meanwhile, the IMF team into Gambia was led by Mr David Dunn, IMF mission chief for Gambia.
He is reported to have held talks with the Gambia vice president, madam Isatou Njie-Saidy as well as the Finance minister and also met and discussed with representatives of non-governmental organisations, private sector and development partners.

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