By Tabora Bojang
President Adama Barrow has revealed that owing to the ongoing economic crises government is forced to take millions of U.S dollars from Gambia’s hard currency reserves to give to businessmen who faced difficulties in getting foreign currency in order to ease the burden on Gambians and ensure prices of commodities are lowered.
“Our reserve cover was on a decline when I took over this country as it was just one month but we were able to move it to eight months’ worth of import cover. This massive improvement would not have been possible if what they are claiming about corruption and mismanagement are anything to be true. These figures cannot be disputed because they present the true picture. But considering the ongoing economic hardships and uncertainties such that businessmen were not able to get U.S Dollars for imports, in our bid to ease these burdens on Gambians, We have drained 3 months from our hard currency reserves to give it to some businessmen so that they can get foreign currency to import goods. This is millions of Dollars and we did it to ease the economic hardship of our citizens,” Barrow said on a meeting with traditional chiefs at the State House Saturday.
He added these and other mechanisms instituted by the government through partnership with the food importers have culminated in the lowering of the price of oil from D2300 to a wholesale price of D1600.
“We did this by partnering with some businesses and we supported them to import food but we made it clear to them that it is meant to ensure prices are lowered and it paid dividends and we will continue this trend to see that other commodities are also lowered,” Barrow added.
Although the president did not name which businessmen were given the reserve money but his comments come barely a month after The Alkamba Times alleged in its October 16 report that top Central Bank officials have been allegedly colluding with the presidency in the supply of foreign currency.
According to President Barrow, such measures would not have happened if he is not interested in addressing the plights of Gambians as critics would argue.
“If it was just a matter of politics, I could have used that [reserve] money to go and construct roads and be politicking. But the best way to do politic is to address the social needs of our people and this is what we are working on. How can anybody love this country more than I do? I am the principal. I am the number one citizen. So, to love this country, to protect this country and to protect its resources from being misappropriated behoves me more than anyone else. So how can I sit and watch people misuse our resources without taking any actions. It is just that it is not easy to prosecute corruption matters because you have to prove your case beyond every reasonable doubt and fully establish the truth. It cannot just be that somebody is accused of stealing and you jump to arrest the person. This is a democracy unlike the past regime where when somebody is accused of stealing D10 just pick and lock you in Mile II. We cannot do that. We are in a democracy and these are the things we fought against. This is why people can now go to their radios, do phone in programs and people will call to insult the president. That is democracy and we want to consolidate it. Yes, critics used to back bite me saying I am weak but when I was campaigning in those difficult days in 2016 [against Yahya Jammeh] the same people called me a lion and that is why we made the change.”