Economist warns against borrowing to fund ‘frivolous expenditures’

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By Alagie Manneh

Gambian economist and opposition UDP politician, Momodou Sabally, has warned the government against borrowing to fund ‘frivolous expenditures’.

Speaking on the wider implications of the country’s national debt, which now stood at D90.7 billion, Mr Sabally said people would have been comfortable if the monies being borrowed were invested in the drivers of the economy like agriculture.

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“But it’s quite clear from the appropriation bill, that the monies we are borrowing are going into frivolous expenditures like high renumeration for parliamentarians, for ministers, and for the Office of the President. This is not a good signal. And no wonder the finance minister admitted that this current year, budget support promised by the African Development Bank and World Bank did not materialise. Yes, it will not materialise because no serious donor would give money to a country that is borrowing at an extremely high rate and using it for frivolous issues like buying cars for ministers and parliamentarians,” Sabally told The Standard.

A higher public debt, Sabally added, may also mean a higher use of scarce domestic budget resources for debt service. “That means the subsequent years we will see more of our funds going to pay interest and principal of public debt. That means less resources for education and other critical social services like health.”  

Regarding the D40 million expenditure appropriated for treatment of senior government officials, Sabally said: “For me, that just validates my label of this government as an animal farm. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

He reminded that during the Jammeh era, a budget was set aside under the Ministry of Health for the treatment of everybody, including non-public servants.

“People applied through the Office of the President. People were treated whether they were government officials or not, based on merit, based on the critical nature of the situation. But now you have a government that sets aside more than 40 million just for top government officials. This is a travesty of justice, a travesty of fair play, and [an] indication that this is a government that is not interested in democracy. Because democracy is not just about freedom of speech and voting; it is also about the fair and equitable distribution of the national wealth,” Mr Sabally stated.