By Omar Bah
Respected Gambian economist and deputy secretary for external affairs of the opposition UDP, Lamin Manneh, has advised government to recognise and admit that the country is heading for bankruptcy.
Manneh was reacting to the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee’s quarterly report which indicated that the Gambian currency has remained relatively stable against major currencies, despite demand-driven fluctuations in the foreign exchange market.
The report also projected the country’s GDP growth prospect at over 5.0 percent for 2023.
In his reaction, Manneh, a former ADB staff told The Standard that the country is bankrupt and the earlier the government recognises that, the sooner it will be able to design recovery policies.
Manneh argued that any growth in the GDP as claimed by the CBG, should translate into enhanced economic well-being of Gambians, for whom the government is supposed to be working.
He however added that the CBG is doing its best under difficult circumstances, even sometimes straying out of its traditional areas of competence to bail out the economy. “To a large extent, the CBG is playing fireman in a country suffering from self-inflicted economic woes but even though these efforts are commendable it must be careful not to stray into illegality,” he warned.
Manneh added that the CBG’s primary responsibility is directing monetary policy, including inflation control and defence of the national currency, but currently, it seems to have opted for a certain amount of inflation to finance economic growth and now that inflation is running out of control, it does not have much control over economic development and growth, which are the responsibility of other sectors of government.
Manneh said the CBG’s report is intended more for development partners and less for Gambians.
“To break down the economic jargon for the average Gambian, the acclaimed GDP growth should translate into enhanced economic well-being of Gambians, for whom the government is supposed to be working. The dividends of growth should benefit Gambians; that is what inclusion is all about. Today, the vast majority of Gambians will not believe anyone who tells them that the country is doing well because they live the hardships on a daily basis. They know all too well how hard it is to put food on the family table or secure proper and affordable healthcare, pay for their utilities, send their children to school, pay their rent, and for the lucky ones, pay for the maintenance of their homes, particularly in this rainy season etc.
Manneh said no amount of spin will make Gambians believe otherwise. “They will not be taken in by the technical jargon we tend to throw around when we seek to intimidate and scare people from asking questions, for fear of sounding ignorant. No, the Gambian economy is not doing well, the tourism sector is not recovering, rather, it is crumbling under the damage inflicted by the Securiport charges and other ill-advised policies in the sector,” he said.
Manneh concluded: “Unfortunately for the CBG, and in spite of its efforts, this press release came at a very awkward moment. In this rainy season, when Gambians are frustrated with the difficulties of leaving their homes and getting to work, it is totally inappropriate to tell them that the country is doing well. For who? Caution is required when we float ideas and theories among Gambians with a view to convincing and or reassuring them. They are capable of discernment.”