As the trial of strength between government and Banjul Breweries is getting exacerbated, the Minister of Finance 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 shut down its production line if government continues to turn a deaf ear to their demands 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, Minister Njai made it clear that the tax levy proposal on local beer did not emanate from a unilateral decision, for 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 Commiittee and Banjul Breweries. He said that The Gambia’s tax on alcohol was the lowest in the West African subregion.
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.
The Secretary General of the company, who endorsed the position paper, said the sales on beer products constitute more than 50% of the overall turnover of their business. Fatou Sinyan Mergan expressed deep concerns about the tax hike on local beer, warning that “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 reduce the company’s workforce and scale down its operations before shutting down operations.