Domestic Debt Rises to over D22 Billion

By Amie Sanneh

The Governor of the Central Bank of the Gambia, Amadou Colley has said in the year to end December 2015, the domestic debtCBG Governor Colley stood at D22.6 billion (59.1 percent of GDP) from D18.8 billion (53.0 percent of GDP) in 2014. He also reveals that treasury bills and Sukuk AI Salaam, accounting for 67.7 percent and 2.63 percent of the debt stock, increased by 4.3 percent and 0.02 percent respectively.

The Central Bank Governor made these revelations yesterday at the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held yesterday, 4 February, at the bank’s conference hall in Banjul.

He added “Data on government fiscal operations indicated that revenue and grants amounted to 08.0 billion (21.0 percent of   GDP) in 2015 compared to 07.5 billion (20.0 percent of GDP) in 2014.”

The CBG Governor said total expenditure and net lending amounted to D10.4 billion (28.3 percent of GDP) compared to 09.8 billion (26.3 percent of GDP) in 2014. “Current expenditure rose to  08.4 billion or 15.5 percent  higher than in 2014, largely attributed to the sharp increase  in interest payments by 47.7 percent to 02.8 billion (30.4 percent of tax revenue),” noted Governor Colley.

According to Governor Colley, the overall budget balance (excluding grants) on commitment basis was a lower deficit of 02.8 billion (7.6 percent of GDP) in 2015 compared to a deficit of 03.6 billion (9.7 percent of GOP) in 2014. The overall budget balance (including grants) on commitment basis he said, was unchanged at 02.4 billion, or 6.3 percent of GDP.

Preliminary balance of payments estimates for 2015 indicated an overall surplus of US$62.1 million compared to US$112.9 million in 2014, he said.

According to him, the current account deficit widened to US$115.2 million compared to the deficit of US$81.8 million in 2014. Of the components of the current account, the goods account recorded a deficit of US$250.3 million, higher than   the deficit of US$217.8 million last year, he said.  The services account surplus he added, decreased slightly to US$37.2 million from US$41.7 million in 2014.

The governor noted that capital and financial   account recorded a surplus of US$177.3 million, lower than the surplus of US$194.7 million in 2014.

On foreign exchange, he said the volume of transactions in the domestic market decreased to US$0.75 billion in 2015 compared to US$1.42 billion in 2014. The CBG Governor further explains that in the year to end December 2015, the Dalasi appreciated against the U.S. Dollar by 12.2 percent, Pound Sterling (12.6 percent) and Euro (23.0 percent).

Commenting on consumer price inflation measured by the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI), he said it decelerated to 6.7 percent in December 2015, from 6.9 percent in December 2014. This, he added, was primarily as a result of the decline in food inflation from 8.43 percent in December 2014 to 4.83 percent in December 2015.  In contrast, he said non-food inflation increased from 4.8 percent in December 2014 to 5.17 percent in December 2015. Central Bank of The Gambia’s measure  of core  inflation,  which  excludes  the prices  of  volatile   food  items,  utilities and  energy,  decreased to  6.7 percent in  December 2015 compared to  6.9 percent in  December 2014.

The CBG head stated that global inflation pressures remain benign, reinforced by further decline in commodity prices. He said, since the previous meeting of the MPC, oil prices have declined by about 75 percent from their peak in June 2014. “The global over-supply and the consequent low prices are expected to persist in the medium-term, particularly following the lifting of sanctions against Iran,” he said.

Governor Colley revealed that the Gambia Bureau of Statistics has revised upwards real GDP growth for 2014 from the earlier estimate of 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent, citing ‘less-than-expected’ contraction in agricultural output than   previously estimated. “Growth in 2015 is expected to be supported by strong recovery in tourism and agriculture as well as increased infrastructure spending,” he said.

On the banking sector, the Central Bank Governor said the net domestic assets (NDA) of the banking sector rose by 13.9 percent compared to 14.2 percent a year earlier. He added that reserve money grew at an annual rate of 10.0 percent, lower than the 11.9 percent a year ago, owing to the marked contraction in the NFA of the Central Bank.

He said the key financial soundness indicators shows that the fundamentals of the banking industry remain strong.

“Total assets of the industry increased to D29.3 billion, or 3.8 percent from 2014,” said Governor Colley.

The industry, he continued, recorded a net profit of D604.0 million, but lower than D624 million in 2014. “The return on assets was 2.1 percent and the return on equity (13.5 percent)   compared to 2.2 percent and 15.9 percent respectively in 2014,” disclosed the CBG Governor.