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Friday, January 22, 2021

Finance Minister feels NAMs loan scheme ‘not ideal’

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By Omar Bah

The Minister of Finance has told lawmakers that the process used to allocate themselves a loan scheme is not ideal.

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At least seventeen NAMs out of the 33 who voted on Friday agreed to a proposal for a loan of over 50 million dalasis to build their houses. The proposal, tabled by nominated National Assembly member Ya-Kumba Jaiteh, sparked controversy and condemnation.

“It is not ideal for members to have a loan scheme for themselves squeezed into the already drawn 2021 budget,” Mambury Njie said.

He added: “What Halifa Sallah said is correct. Taking from here and putting it as a loan scheme, I don’t think it’s ideal. I think we have to withdraw the loan scheme, even if we have to come with a supplementary bill. I think procedurally that’s the right thing to do. That is the limit of my powers as a minister in the Assembly.”

The NAM for Banjul South, Ousman Sillah said: “I fear double standard in the proposal on the part of the members. It’s the same principle with National Audit Office. We asked them to revise that (travel expenditure) and yet, we want to give it to the National Assembly. The issue is that let us not be seen as playing double standard. Parliamentary elections are expected in 2022 within the first four months. Only sixteen months away. Now, assuming that National Assembly Members are receiving D50, 000 per month including allowance, committee sittings and monthly payments, a loan of one million for a period of sixteen months will require a monthly payment of D62,500. So, the million-dalasi loan question is, how will you be able to pay back the loan?” Sillah quizzed.

Suwaibou Touray, the NAM for Wuli East, argued: “We have only one year to leave this office. So, if you take a loan, which is a building loan, when are you going to finish paying that? Do you leave here and leave your loan behind?”

Another NAM, Alhagie Mbowe of Upper Saloum, said: “For me, it was an ethical issue because we ask these people to cut their budget which they did and take the same loans and give it back to ourselves. That was an ethical issue and we must look at the economic situation of the country. We must be considerate, look at the morality and the ethical issues. That was why I voted against the loan scheme. We must think twice and we must take into consideration that the national interest becomes our topmost priority and not to give ourselves things because we have the powers to do it. “

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