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ECONOMIST ACCUSES OMCS OF PLAYING ‘DECEPTIVE POLITICS’

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By Omar Bah

Dr Assan Jallow, an economist and social commentator, has urged the country’s Oil Marketing Companies to avoid playing “deceptive politics” and show concern rather than becoming agents of economic profiteers.

The OMCs announced Wednesday that they are left with no choice but to cease operations on Monday because of number of reasons that led to impasse between them and government including the pump prices.

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But in his analysis of the impasse, Dr Jallow said the OMCs’ decision to issue their politically-charged press release is a flawed one. “What they are promoting is nothing but creative management to get compensated through public pressures on the government,” Dr Jallow said in a write-up shared with The Standard.

According to him, from “a policy perspective, the issues raised by the OMCs are best resolved through thought and coherent consultation, engagement, and collaboration with stakeholders and, in this case, the government of The Gambia”.

“At most, the OMC’s plot could be compared to “playing softball with dirty politics” in trying to get the government to respond to their demands, knowing full well that we have a reactionary government that ignores the long-term consequences of its actions,” he added.

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The economist further argued: “It seems we are operating in an economic court of kicking each other for what satisfies our individual or group’s self-interest by letting the ball play us instead of kicking or playing the ball as per established protocols, rules, and regulations to get the outcomes of better results in our governance”.

“We understand that there are challenges in the oil and gas business (petroleum products) and prices won’t come down any time soon despite there being a reduction in the cost of a barrel to $88.86 and the government could intervene to address the supply chain challenges in many ways,” he explained.

Jallow said caution must be exercised as most OMCs own multiple companies and are alleged to be supplying money to most of the operators in the black market,  thereby diverting large sums of dollars into this sector to recoup immediate profits while at the same time blaming the limited access to US dollars.

He said the Gambia continues to battle with structural and institutional flaws across all sectors of the national economy, with increased economic challenges in the economy and for the people.

“The country is bewitched, and we are being outplayed and overshadowed by the ‘black capitalists’ – the merchants of greed and profiteers whose understanding of the workings of capitalism is limited. Our economic challenges and fundamental flaws keep compounding at the center, and we wonder what it would look like if it explodes when the center can no longer hold the fort. To them it is all about hitting the ‘jackpot’ through rip-off schemes at the expense of the consumers,” Dr Jallow lamented.

“It is not about corporate social responsibility or reducing the burdens of economic stressors on the populace amidst the global economic challenges but killing off people’s economic power and placing them in the worst-off streams and not understanding the domino effects of such short and long-term consequences of their actions to the economy and people, by extension,” he added.

The press release of the OMCs, Dr Jallow added, did not surprise him as he is aware of the forces behind the new “merchants of greed,” playing smart with our emotions as what they see is a race to the top of grabbing all one could get along the way to oneself due to the deficits of institutional flaws and political patronage, despite having a progressive legal framework to guide our governance system.”

He said the systems of governance in the country are being undermined by players who serve as regulators masquerading as “our” “saving Grace”, “when they are our disaster lunch pads”.

On the OMCs’ claims of inability to access sufficient dollars on the market, Dr Jallow argued that this is resolvable if they have foreign currency accounts in their trading names, and their respective banks and the CBG should collaborate and coordinate to make it possible for them to have US dollars available to transact with their suppliers.

On the OMCs’ other claim that banks are no longer able to issue credits, Dr Jallow said: “This, to me, is an internal matter, as the issue of not being able to have or access letters of credit through their banks has to do with their bad credit and the history of OMCs with their respective banks not being able to prove to the bank that they have enough assets or sufficient line of credit to pay before the bank guarantees the payment to the seller.”

On the pricing structure resulting in bankruptcy losses for OMCs, Jallow said: “They have not shared any figures regarding the loss they complained about during this period. This further questions the intent behind their press release! However, wonders shall never end, as this manifests in our characters as Gambians because we feel happy in extending the burdens of economic shock and difficulties on people’s shoulders and smile as profits racks in quantum fashions,” he concluded.

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