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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 19, 2021

07

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You are notorious for raising your voice and debate whatever topic you find necessary, no matter if you have any knowledge in the area or not. You have been so silent for a long time now, that’s great in one way but not so great in another. Perhaps you have been placed aside somewhere for a while, to ponder your actions – or inactions? It seems like you have a good salary for doing almost nothing. I think I will apply for your job as Minister of Culture and Tourism when there is a change of government after the election in December. At least I have visions for both of your sectors and that appears to be more than you have. The title Honourable would sound lovely before my own name. Poor Minister, I can hear you sigh all the way here to Sweden. You pity yourself and wonder why this lady just can’t leave you alone.

That’s a good question, Minister Bah, and now as we share the same surname, I feel that we are almost family. In a family we discuss, we share opinions and we argue so what is the difference from our ”relation”? Minister of Culture and Tourism; that’s a great title and when we consider that the tourism sector is one of the biggest contributors of the Gambian GDP there lies a heavy weight on your shoulders. Is that why you sound so cranky every time you speak (shout) out about any subject? To make the Gambian culture more appealing for people, you need to wrap the package beautifully, a smile doesn’t cost you anything.

Let us begin with tourism, which unfortunately is a disaster if we look forward to the coming tourist season – which will be none. No one, not even I, can blame you for the pandemic, but do you have a plan for how everyone in the tourist sector will survive yet another year without any income? It is tough being a minister for the tourist sector at the moment, but at least you get your salary every month. This will be the second tourist season without any income, and that is affecting so many – even the state. Considering that tourism is such a large part of the GDP you must have some kind of plan for how this sector will survive. Do you, Minister Bah? Do you have a plan and have you had meetings with everyone involved, assuring them that they are not forgotten by the state?

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All is well for you as long as all tour operators pay their annual fee, which has to be paid in advance not knowing if they will have any income or not. This fee is very high and if the tour operators are unable to pay, they will be forbidden to do business. Larger companies might have some savings which they can use for this purpose, but the smaller live from hand to mouth just as any other Gambian. All the smaller businesses that depend on tourism live in fear. They didn’t get any income last season, they hoped they would get something this coming season and now they fear the future because they know that the pandemic has destroyed it once more.

The pandemic has disturbed so much for so many, all over the world. Businesses have shut down, people have become bankrupt but everything is not pitch black everywhere. In countries where there is a well functioning system, politicians have come up with strategies to help the struggling citizens. For example; companies can apply for readjustment support if their revenues decreased because of the pandemic. This will help the companies to manage their fixed costs so they can survive the pandemic. What is crucial in every functioning society is to have a longterm plan. The budget is supposed to cover the costs and the money should only be used for purposes of the state.

The problem is that The Gambia is known for its corruption, and as long as that is a fact there will never be an end of the misery. It seems like the budget is only to be considered as a recommendation, so whenever the money has been used up there will be more to get from some magic source. The budget for a state is of course much more advanced to handle than your household budget, but the principle is the same: there is a certain amount of money that has to be stretched to certain costs during a certain time. If not, then perhaps we can borrow money from someone but that has to be paid back. This ”someone” might appear very patient and generous in the beginning, but the more you get into debt, the more you depend on the goodwill of that person.

The Gambia is in deep debt, deeper than ever before and that will affect the coming generations. Our young ones are not stupid, they know that the current regime hasn’t been there for them so don’t expect any pity from them when the election comes in December 4. The old way of raising kids was to silence them and let the elderly do the talking and the decision-making. We have more youths than elderly people in The Gambia and they are no longer waiting for their turn to speak. They have seen how the elderly have handled the affairs, and they are not pleased. Thanks to the Internet, information is spreading fast. Not everyone is using the Internet to look at music videos and Tik-Tok. Young people want to learn how life can be and they learn from others.

Some days ago yet another boat sank with the loss of plenty lives. The boat went from Senegal and was heading for the Canary Islands. Among the dead were people from Senegal and The Gambia, young people who didn’t feel they had a future in their own country. I remember when you, Minister Bah, once said that the young men who came back to The Gambia should marry Gambian girls. This was some weird idea you had, and no one really understood how that could be helpful for anyone. The young men who fled their country, who suffered so much during the journey, and who were forced to go back to The Gambia had nothing to offer anyone – even themselves. How would it be possible for them to marry a girl and then support her, the kids that would surely come, and also the extended family?

Instead of speaking out in matters where you have no knowledge, you should focus on your sectors and do your level best for them. The pandemic has forced TUI and other companies to cancel all their trips to The Gambia. This is a disaster for the whole country and we need to hear you address that issue. Don’t do the mistake other ministries in The Gambia do and give empty promises. Remember that you are a servant of the people, they pay your salary and expect you to present solutions and give them support in times of hardships.

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