Focus on The Gambia: Statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang at the conclusion of a visit to The Gambia

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By: Momodou Camara
(ACCA)

On 16th May, Mr Tao Zhang, the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement at the conclusion of his visit to The Gambia: “My visit to The Gambia was extremely fruitful and informative, and I am grateful for the warm hospitality of the Gambian people. I wish to thank President Adama Barrow, Finance Minister Mambury Njie, and Central Bank Governor Bakary Jammeh for our constructive and substantive discussions. I commended President Barrow on his administration’s commitment to transparency, strong governance and the rule of law, which has helped to improve the business climate and boost investor confidence. I encouraged continued progress with the constitutional and judicial review process, the transitional justice reform agenda and emphasised the need to publish the Janneh Commission’s report expeditiously, to accelerate the recovery of stolen assets. In my talks with the Gambian authorities, I welcomed the credible turnaround in macroeconomic performance and the great strides toward fiscal probity. I also encouraged the authorities to consolidate these gains through strengthened revenue mobilisation, improved Treasury management, and expenditure prioritization and restraint.

I also explained that creditor assurances of debt relief, continued fiscal prudence, and commitment to the reform of state-owned enterprises would be needed to transition to an IMF financial arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility. I was honoured to meet with parliamentarians to discuss strengthening their oversight function and with development and diplomatic partners to discuss donor coordination, given The Gambia’s intensive use of donor funding and capacity development resources.

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I delivered a public speech on ‘The Gambia’s Pathway to Prosperity’, which emphasised the importance of regional integration for The Gambia’s successful structural transformation. I also visited a number of sites that are playing a pivotal role in The Gambia’s efforts to deepen its outward orientation and strengthen its regional ties, notably, the Port of Banjul, which is seeking to expand and help reinvigorate The Gambia’s role in regional trade, Radville Farms, a private horticultural farm and large employer engaged in agricultural exports, and the recently completed Senegambia Bridge, connecting the northern and southern parts of The Gambia and Senegal and a vital link opening-up the sub region to the Cairo-Lagos trade corridor. Finally, I visited the Gambia Organisation for the Visually Impaired which aims to train and integrate the visually impaired into Gambian society. I was impressed by the determination and resilience of the organisation’s members, a symbol of the strength of The Gambia and its aspiration to prosperity. The IMF stands ready to continue assisting the Gambian authorities to achieve their national objectives.”
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INETRNATIONAL BUSINESS AND COMMERCE
Probed, sacked and ignored: how countries reacted to West Africa Leaks
The region’s biggest collaboration spurred some nations to act, while others remained silent. Twelve months after the publication of West Africa’s largest journalism collaboration, authorities in the region continue to probe some leads – and ignore others. West Africa Leaks uncovered offshore companies and bank accounts of potentates from the region, which loses more revenue through tax avoidance, evasion and financial crime than any other in Africa. Working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism (Cenozo), reporters from 11 countries spent months poring over leaked financial records, contracts and emails. Their discoveries included the Dubai company of a candidate for the presidency in Mali (he lost), the tax avoidance machinations of a Canadian multinational in Senegal and the bank account of a member of Togo’s autocratic ruling elite. The investigation was the first of its kind in West Africa, where journalists are underpaid and can face the threat of imprisonment and even death for their work. An informed public opinion will demand change, eventually said Samuel De Jaegere. The revelations did not spur every government into action. No probes have been opened in Mali, Senegal, Benin, Togo or Niger. Yet there are reasons for optimism, according to both anti-corruption experts and journalists.

Investigative stories like those from West Africa Leaks “are like drops of water on a stone,” said Samuel De Jaegere, adviser with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “You don’t see impact immediately, but over time you will. An informed public opinion will demand change, eventually.” West Africa Leaks showed that “talents in investigative journalism abound in Ghana and in the region,” said Accra-based West Africa Leaks member Emmanuel Dogbevi.

Dogbevi said: when “faced with limited resources [journalists] are able to step up to the plate and do a world class project of the highest standard, and more importantly, that they are willing to take the risk to expose wrongdoing. “Like a seed, it is very likely to grow as a major reference point for courageous, public interest journalism, particularly at a time when there is growing interest in illicit financial flows in West Africa.”

Court: Deutsche Bank may release files on Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has failed in his legal attempt to stop Congress subpoenas to force Deutsche Bank to release his financial details. The German bank reportedly lent Trump over $2 billion in the last 20 years. US President Donald Trump has lost a legal battle to block Congress from subpoenaing his financial records from two banks. The president also said he would not work with the House unless it stopped investigating him or his finances. New York District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled on Wednesday that Trump, his family, and his company were “highly unlikely” to succeed in a lawsuit claiming that the subpoenas by Democratic lawmakers were unconstitutional. Ramos said the subpoenas have “a legitimate legislative purpose.” The move could mean that Deutsche Bank and Capital One, two banks that Trump has borrowed millions of dollars from, may be forced to release their documents on the president. A 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had had at least $130 million (€116 million) of liabilities to Deutsche Bank alone, with the new subpoena seeking more records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his immediate family and their various businesses. The New York Times has reported that Trump owed Deutsche Bank some $300 million when he was inaugurated in 2017. The bank has said it would comply with subpoenas. The lawyers for the Congress’ House Financial Services and Intelligence committees said they needed access to documents from the banks to investigate possible “foreign influence in the US political process” and possible money laundering from abroad.

Battle with Congress
In response, Trump’s lawyer Patrick Strawbridge, told the judge that it was “probably a safe bet” that the president would appeal. A complaint filed in April by Trump’s lawyers argued the subpoenas were “overbroad,” and that the Democrats were using them just to “stumble on something” that could be used in a political attack. The president had already lost a similar case in a federal court in Washington this week, when a judge found that Trump could not block a Congress subpoena for information from a financial services firm that had done some accounting for him. In response, the president called the decision “crazy” and pointed out that the judge, Amit Mehta, had been appointed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, lawyers for two congressional committees wrote in a submission that Trump’s attempts to block subpoenas were “flatly inconsistent with nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent.” Democratic lawmakers welcomed the decision. “So far, I think the president would be wise to come to the realization that our legitimate areas of inquiry are going to be supported by the courts,” Michigan Democrat Representative Dan Kildee told Reuters. Trump’s relations with the legislative branch got even worse on Wednesday when he broke off a bipartisan meeting in the White House over plans to improve infrastructure in the US. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had angered the president before hand by saying he was “engaged in a cover-up.” In a hastily-arranged press conference Wednesday, Trump said he was “the most transparent president probably in the history of this country,” before adding that he couldn’t carry out infrastructure discussion “under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with.” After the meeting Pelosi sent a letter to colleagues saying Trump had “had a temper tantrum for us all to see” over the investigations.

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