Beakanyang Organisation, a leading human rights organisation in The Gambia, realising that citizens of the country reserve the fundamental right to know and understand the annual revenue estimates (income and expenses) of the government, with funding from the International Republican Institute (IRI), organised an open day session on the 2021 national budget.
The forum held on December 27, 2020 in Basse, Upper River Region brought together National Assembly Members, Councilors, Alkalolu, women and youth leaders, CSOs and heads of government departments in the region.
It was characterised by an extensive, inclusive and participatory interface between the said stakeholders; thus, providing them (particularly local communities) the opportunity to understand the country’s national budgetary development processes, respective financial allocations and appropriations to government sectors, as well as key priority areas of the said budget.
This could not have come at a better time, for it brought the rightful information on the “second most important national document” to the door-steps of the people; thus, promoting State accountability and transparency.
Its activity has also helped participants to know the link between human rights and the national budget.
In his welcoming, Nfamara Jawneh, Executive Director of Beakanyang said the objective of the activity was to create a platform for open dialogue amongst the relevant stakeholders on the national budget.
“This activity was further aimed at creating an increased dialogue on the budget among Gambian stakeholders around improvements achieved by the actors, gaps and challenges and recommendations for improvement, including how to encourage citizens participation in the budget process,” he said.
He lamented that during the past authoritarian rule, there existed little or no public discourse around the budget and once tabled at the National Assembly, it gets approved by NAMs who were dubbed ‘rubberstamped’.
“From 2017 to date, since the new government took office, support from IRI to actors in the Executive, National Assembly, Civil society and media in building capacity and encouraging stakeholder dialogues has seen significant increase in understanding as well as participation of these actors in the budget process, especially the NAMs who now have capacity to thoroughly review and change the executive budget as they deem necessary,” he added.
According to him, civil society organisations including Beakanyang also continue to play its part in sensitizing and carrying out advocacy around the budget but due to reason relating to financial resources and access to remote areas of rural Gambia as well as the limited constituency outreaches by NAMs, Gambians in the remote areas have very limited opportunities to discuss the budget with these different actors, and how the budget affects their lives.
“Gambians since independent has suffer so many violations of their basic rights such as proper health care system, proper electricity supply, quality and safe drinking water and road connections especially for the rural communities. In addressing those challenges, the public especially, the young people need to have the required capacity to know the important of the budget and having a basic understand of the budget process especially at this crucial stage when the National Assemble recently passed the national budget for 2021,” he noted.
He noted that the Open Day formed part of their efforts to increase the understanding and interest of the people in URR on the national budget.