Activist says Assembly budgetary increment unjustifiable

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By Omar Bah

A prominent human rights advocate and social commentator has described the budgetary increment for the National Assembly as “immoral and unjustifiable”.

According to budget estimates, the Speaker’s salary is being proposed to increase from D658, 534.00 to D1,560, 000 per annum while Deputy Speaker, would get an annual salary increment from D551, 100 to D716, 430; the Majority Leader from D540, 552 to D702, 718 and the Minority Leader from D510, 000 to D663, 000.

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Meanwhile, the cumulative annual salary for other members of the National Assembly would also be increased from D24, 960, 000 to D32, 448, 000.

“Well clearly the decision to increase their salaries at astronomical levels is immoral and unjustified and it is certainly not in the national interest, precisely because the country cannot afford such hikes in the midst of an ever-deepening economic crisis,” Jeggan Grey Johnson told The Standard in reaction to the increments.

He said it is a total abuse of office and state resources as “it is illegal”.

“A total breach of section 112 (b) of the constitution under self-enrichment. This also speaks to dictates of conscience and the national interest,” he added.

Anti-corruption activist and executive director – Gambia Participates, Marr Nyang, said: “Is it unfair for NAMs to increase the salary of the National Assembly members and staff of the NA by 30%? I think they are following a precedent that was set by the executive when they decided to introduce a 30% increment for all public servants in July 2022 excluding the National Assembly and other government institutions.

“The Gambia’s budget is more administrative than pro-poor and it is not pro-development. If you have 85% of your money going into administrative costs, the development pace will be slow. This is why we have started supporting Parliament to push for programme-based budgeting and as well expand their legislative oversight on the budget,” he added.

Also commenting, former director of budget, Momodou Sabally, said the 2023 budget estimate is “not fit for purpose”.

“Therefore, approving it means exacerbating macroeconomic economic instability and sending a bad signal to our donors and development partners. A government whose Central Bank is increasing interest rates to curb inflation, presents a budget that is increasing expenditure and net lending in the face of dwindling revenue and grants; this does not make any sense.

“I cannot also understand why the government is increasing its expenditures with frivolous activities like opening new embassies and neglecting critical growth drivers like agriculture. It is delusional to factor in budget support for 2023 when the minister has admitted that expected funds for the same purpose did not materialize in 2022.  This is a recipe for further borrowing and worsening of public debt burden,” he stated.

He said the increase in earnings of the Speaker and the NAMs is “completely objectionable”.

“A country whose children are dying for lack of safe paracetamol syrup cannot afford a 100 percent increase of pay for their House Speaker and purchase of luxury cars worth about D3 million each for NAMs,” he added.