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City of Banjul
Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gambia must start looking into a post-pandemic recovery strategy

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By Samsudeen Sarr

As the global infection number of COVID-19 sidles toward 2 million and its total death figure nearing 200,000, scientists and experts are still inconclusive in their projection of when and how this whole crisis is going to end.

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In my city of New York, regardless of governor Andrew Cuomo’s optimistic message that the worse has passed after “flattening the curve”, but with over 22,000 infections and over 10,000 deaths, the relentless wailing of ambulance sirens especially at night speeding close to my apartment window on Warburton Avenue and South Broadway Avenue towards St. Joseph and St. John Hospitals respectively serve as another barometer in my measurement of any improvements. And with all honestly, I am not yet impressed by the distance covered towards the end of the dark tunnel or the brightness of the light flickering there.

President Donald Trump’s state of paranoia to the extent of questioning the scientific data presented to him with warnings not to prematurely reopen the American economy is not assuring at all. People think it is all about winning a second term in the November elections which I think he will lose no matter what; but above and beyond that hopeless aspiration, I recognize his fear rooted on the probability of his billion-dollar-worth empire disintegrating if more time is wasted shutting down the country for business. His businesses are falling apart compounded by the constitutional statute disqualifying his corporations as the US president to benefit from the 2.2 trillion dollars stimulus package passed by the government to support every vulnerable business affected by the pandemic. To me, that is the fundamental reason why Trump wants the Americans to disregard data from doctors and epidemiologists, disparaging it as fake news but better for him to call it fake science and for the people to put their trust in his “instincts” to open the country back for business sooner than safer. He has even threatened to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci for simply discussing on Sunday with Jake Tapper of CNN the mitigating precautions that could have been applied earlier but were not by the government.

It has however evolved to the point where former world leaders are coming together with complementary ventures to help in fighting this World War. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, former deputy managing director of the IMF, Fund Zhu Min, former US treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers and Jose Manual Barroso and Romano Prodi, Ex-European Commission presidents have formed a self-appointed task force with an objective of unifying the world under the leadership of the US and China for a common battlefront without which they think minimal success will be attainable. They are urging the two super powers to cast aside their two-year old trade war animosity and other geographical disputes during the pandemic.

Mr Brown who seems to be the leader or spokesman of the group has been all over the news and TV outlets explaining the letter they have written to America, China and the G20 countries urging them to unite and instantly commit US$ 14.25 billion to fill what they said is a void in their COVID-19 responses. Vaccines, therapeutics and the augmentation of funds to the WHO are among the issues highlighted in the letter.

British Prime Minister Brown from 2007 to 2010 was credited for his dynamic input and successful cooperation with world leaders and particularly with Barack Obama in the 2009 global financial crash that perhaps makes him believe in reapplying those skills to make a difference in this fight. He is aware but doesn’t want to believe it as a sticking point that Trump’s isolationist doctrine formed the core values of his political constituency. That he has well before his election to office been building his political foundation by overfeeding his loyalists with the slogan diet of “make America great again” that has since divided the world and virtually dismantled everything Obama had constructed that provided the conducive platform he exploited a decade ago and which he perhaps thinks is still there for his adventure.

I am not outrightly saying that Mr Brown and his team are not going to succeed, but I have serious doubt over their sincerity to fairly represent the whole world given the unbalanced composition of the team. To only have whites (European & American) Asians and Latin Americans in the team without any Africans included reflects a rather racial undercurrent in the foundation.

They have in their special letter addressed to the G20 nations suggested to the international community to waive the US$ 44 billion debt due for repayment from poor African countries this year and consider future debt relief so that our governments can fight the pandemic better; nonetheless, to me it is way too little compared to the damage done in the continent. They have also asked the IMF to provide extra allocation of US$ 500 billion to US$600 billion in special drawing rights which many analysts have predicted as untouchable by poor countries.

My question is, why not ask Western nations to investigate their rogue banks harboring stolen monies by African politicians constantly being siphoned out of our poor nations with their help, estimated to be in excess of US$ 50 billion per annum and return those funds that will finally repair the century-old damage done to the continent? Economists all over the world have long ago concluded that the debt owed by African nations to the international community is tailored not to be ever repaid but to remain a permanent burden benefiting them while impoverishing us and increasing our dependency on them.

But from the look of things, it is very likely that the Western world in these trying times will rather exhaust those stolen funds on fixing their devastated economies and health institutions than sending back a dime to help Africa recuperate. Indeed millions of dollars stolen and saved in American banks by Nigeria’s late General Sani Abacha who died since 1997, still remain a huge problem for the Nigerian government to recover all of it while more thieves are funneling more money out of the continent that will never ever be returned to Africa. It had happened to Mobutu, Bokassa and numerous dead African leaders.

One would have hoped that this is the right time for African leaders to come together and form their own task force to rescue the continent once and for all; but with our puppets running scoundrel governments, that dream will only persist as a dreadful nightmare.
In a discussion with a friend last week, we looked at the novel idea of the world and America in particular passing the defense production bill to manufacture massive number of medical equipment for their under equipped health centers. Vehicle manufacturing plants are being retrofitted and retooled to build hundreds of thousands of ventilators and other ICU equipment while others such as Heinz production industry now produce abundance of PPEs, hospital beds and other essential medical items. Laboratory and testing equipment are also produced at a scale and speed last seen during World War Two and the Korean War.

China, India, Japan, Korea and certain European countries are doing the same at a similar rate and magnitude which will eventually overstock the world with excessive medical equipment that might end their production for the next decade considering their durability and efficiency. However, to keep the original manufacturing industries alive and profitable, the capitalist-survival creed may later resort to storing all excesses and letting them decay, rust and perish in warehouses in the name of waiting for another pandemic in the next 100 years or be all destroyed to make them scarce again in the market. Otherwise those companies will go bankrupt for having no reason to continue production or will have nowhere to sell their products.

In the mean time, countries like Gambia could have started taking inventory of what is lacking in our hospitals and health facilities ranging from ventilators, ambulances, laboratory equipment, PPEs, beds and even the need to build additional major hospitals to make the best use out of the excesses in the immediate post-pandemic period.

There are wealthy humanitarian individuals and organizations whom I am sure may happily respond by purchasing the “cheap” excesses for us when presented with convincing story about Gambia, a poor and neglected nation with a population of 2 million but having only four ventilators, six dialysis machines, limited ambulances, no standby generators and other inadequate health resources. Depending on MRC for testing certain pathogens or diseases says everything about our ill-equipped laboratories for normal-times diagnoses, let alone during such a pandemic. But we have to start with cutting down on wasteful spending of purchasing luxury vehicles for unconscionable government officials before we can for instance justify our need for ambulances. Politicians cannot be looting our scanty resources and building mansions in Dakar, Senegal and still expect the world to sympathize with us when we ask them to help us build a good hospital in Basse.

Black philanthropists in the USA like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and many more of their kind are aware of the racism being currently manifested against Africans all over the world in these difficult times and should therefore be willing to help when asked conscientiously.
Most Africans were convinced that the Chinese were racially more tolerant than the whites until now when our people were subjected to beastly treatments in China in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.It is now obvious that Mongoloids are as evil as Caucasians when it comes to dealing with the Negroid. And don’t be fooled, Indians and Arabs all in looks and character are nothing but either Mongoloids or Caucasians, period. They are racist to the last drop of their bloods.

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