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Ex-finance minister says president’s salary ‘ridiculously’ high

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By Omar Bah

Former Minister of Finance and senior member of the opposition UDP, Amadou Sanneh has described the recent salary increment that reportedly sees the president’s basic salary rise from D255, 000 to D331, 000 and other allowances as ridiculous and unsustainable.

Last year, the government announced it will introduce a new grading system and pay scale with a significant upward revision of salaries to commensurate with increasing cost of living starting last July.

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Barely two weeks ago, the National Assembly passed a government’s proposed revised budget designed to increase salaries by 30% falling short of expectation. The 30% increment has since been criticised as a tactic to benefit those at the top.  

Former Minister Sanneh told The Standard that the salary increment was meant for the high assailant of the civil service.

“I have not calculated the salary of the president but somebody posted that his salary is about D500500 and that is really ridiculous especially when you have at the bottom of the ladder somebody earning just D1500. They cannot even afford a bag of rice or pay rent. So, it shows that all they have done in this salary increase is to fill their own pockets forgetting the poor civil servants,” Sanneh said.

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The former minister said the president’s actions were unjustifiable especially at a time when the country’s economy, education, health and agriculture sectors are collapsing.

“You cannot even find scanners in our public hospitals. Poor Gambians are forced to pay D6000 in private clinics just for scanning and our president is accepting that huge salary and he feels comfortable with it. This government has no direction,” he said.

Sanneh said when the government took office in 2017 and realised the country has about 125% GDP ratio, they were advised by their development partners and financial institutions to cut their expenditure and put more funds in investment projects.

He said the GPA port expansion project was part of those projects that should have been up and running by now but it seems it has failed and all the major government projects have also failed. “What they are doing is investing in elephant projects – like roads and other infrastructure and they keep borrowing and borrowing from the D15 billion loan. We are now around D88 billion and Gambians are watching this to keep rising and they are the ones that would bear the consequences,” Sanneh said.

He argued that the Barrow administration is ignoring all the roles.

“They just do what they want – This is a replica of the Jammeh regime and it is costing us a lot. All these things are affecting every Gambian so we should do whatever we can to protect our resources,” he said.

He said while other countries are supporting their small businesses to transition from the shock of Covid-19 the Gambia has nothing in its budget to support its business sector.

New ministries

He said the president has no justification to set up two new ministries which together cost the government over D200 million annually. “What is the need for those new ministries? So, the government is spending more than necessary. The cuts that they put in the budget to accommodate all these things will affect the operational capacities of the ministries and departments especially agriculture. Then under the administration also you removed all the budget allocations for civil service reforms that means they don’t want to do any reforms, meaning we will continue with the high over staffing we are facing,” he added.

He said the government lacks any strategy or meaningful direction to move this country out of its predicaments.

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