By Alagie Manneh
Opposition Unted Democratic Party leader, Ousainu Darboe, has said that the national budget just passed and its allocation patterns demonstrated a clear lack of vision for the development of the country, adding that it did not prioritise the welfare of ordinary Gambians.
“This budget is an exacerbation of the inequality already existing in our society as it has showed that the rich, the powerful and the connected are the major beneficiaries of our national resources while we are the ones who have been missed out of this budget,” Darboe said at a UDP press conference yesterday.
He said all this was done as the economy remains steep in “inequality, poverty, unemployment and entrenched, rampant systemic corruption”.
“Ours is an economy and a state that has been captured by sectoral cartel and special interest groups.”
He said reliance on a national budget financed by a mixture of borrowing, taxation and grants will not develop The Gambia.
Darboe continued: “The president has recently announced a series of service tax increases which will further fuel the hardships Gambians continue to face. Those of you who really go to the courts to file your processes will now face difficulties because it will be too expensive for the poor man to be able to afford the filing fees. So, on that account alone, the poor will be denied justice. Your land rents are going to be increased and so will fees for leases and generally, the ordinary person will not be able to have access to these services because of the increases in the rates that will be charged on them. And all these are done in order to be able to finance their own wasteful spending as can be seen in this current budget.”
Hike in nomination fees
Darboe also criticised plans to increase the nomination fee for presidential aspirants to one million dalasis.
He reminded that in 2015, Jammeh made similar proposals but the entire political class raised against it.
“We all cried against it, and Jammeh reduced it to half a million. And now this government that has said it wants to ensure there is true democracy and described all those legislations by Jammeh as anti-democratic and measures to give opportunities to other political parties can now turn around and want to implement such measures. That is statement of what this government had stood for and it is a sign towards muzzling democracy and scuttling the ability of Gambians to really partake in presidential elections,” Darboe lamented.