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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

‘Gambia must abandon economic policies that benefit only those in power’

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By Omar Bah

Dr Assan Jallow, an economist, has said the country’s “rugged capitalism, structural reforms, and economic development” is designed to benefit the rich and those in power calling the shots across public and private sector institutions.

“We must formulate a policy convergence and confluence to understand better the hellish road we pursued when we pursued free-market policies to address our structural, institutional, and administrative development challenges,” he told The Standard.

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Dr Jallow said making and implementing policy decisions “is not about putting forward the best ideas or blaming who is at fault. It is not a contest of theorizing without practice. In reality, it is about prioritizing policies that will significantly and positively affect lives and livelihoods in our country.”

He further explained that the capitalist economic model the country has adopted has placed it in “a state of no development, stifling our creative spirit and inhibiting our desire to see a new and developed Gambia”.

“Due to this, the economy is vulture-infested, deep-rooted, and greed-based, creating parochialism and vested interests among groups and individuals, thus creating a wedge between rich and poor. The latter are primarily marginalized under the guise of false ambivalence of issued-based policies,” he added.

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Dr Jallow continued to say that the country needs new orientations and models of development in its fiscal ecosystem because of vast economic disparities, senile economic growth, marginalization, rising unemployment, rising crimes and insecurity, rising prices of essential commodities, corruption, misplaced development priorities, misaligned policies, and wasteful public spending.

He said developing economies like the Gambia will continue to struggle, if serious measures are not put in place.

“The need for a new economic vision and development model for the Gambia cannot be overemphasized, as the continuous application of a capitalist punctured model has not delivered the desired outcomes of our investments for the past 59 years of nationhood and independence.”

“Our foreign policy must be aligned with our national economic policies and centered around partnerships and collaboration for development and investments rather than budget support and financial aid. The latter cannot be sustained and could compromise our national development policy and values, as development assistance comes with conditions attached. In budgeting, we must be financially conscious, prudent, frugal, and mindful of non-business value-added expenditures by ensuring that appropriate strategies are identified to address the root causes of our identified problems, not the symptoms,” he added.

He said the country should also adopt austerity and policies that are mutually beneficial, sound, and uncompromising to avoid the SAB dilemma.

“A reasonable budget is appropriately costed and not adjusted over time by the executive and presented to the hallowed house of the National Assembly for approval. We must get our acts right and save ourselves from a governance’s conveyor belts of short-sightedness. To invest, support, and sustain our productive sectors (for example, the fishing and manufacturing sectors), we must ensure our macroeconomic fundamentals are built on the dynamic of ex-post-cum-ex-ante, where our sovereign wealth funds generate financial resources. In this way, we are spared from rugged capitalism that forces us to rely on foreign aid and loans to fund our budget and development,” he noted.

He said the government should also make sure that its budget is tailored to the country’s priorities and repurpose spending on critical activities to meet development needs while taming unprecedented inflationary pressures.

“Government should implement effective tracking and trending systems to monitor the execution of the identified, agreed-upon policies and costs by tailoring them to our needs rather than becoming too ambitious and developing policies outside the realm of SMART principles. Ensure that the policy environment is conducive, effective, coordinated, and carried out in compliance with the NDP to avoid deviation resulting in policies being politicized and misaligned,” he concluded.

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