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City of Banjul
Sunday, February 25, 2024


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With Aisha Jallow

The other day I learned a new word: greedflation. We have all heard of greed and inflation, so if we combine these two words we get greedflation. A very useful word when we consider our current situation when all prices have skyrocketed. It doesn’t matter the product – everything has become more and more expensive by the day. Here in Sweden we had fixed prices before, but nowadays the prices are flexible – depending on the day. Prices of diesel and petrol can change several times every day, and it has become a challenge to try to find out what time of day, and which day, the prices might become a little bit lower. These prices are rather easy to change, for the chains that are selling fuel.

The cost is advertised on the light signs outside the petrol stations.

The prices of food and building materials have increased severly. Here we speak about a huge amount of articles, and each article has to be marked. It’s not an easy job, but greedflation gives the salesmen energy enough. Greedflation has spread all over the world, even if you might not have a word for it yet. In The Gambia we all know that before all the larger celebrations, like Koriteh and Tobaski, all the prices go up by the day. Those who can afford will buy a ram when it is small, and feed it until it is big enough to be slaughtered. Sacs of sugar are bought in good time before the celebration, and there is a lot of hassling about the price.

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Cooking oil, onions, potatoes are the base of your cooking, together with rice and what small amounts of fish you can afford to buy. Once upon a time no one could believe that fish, that was plentiful in the sea, would become a luxury. Nowadays, when Chinese fishing trawlers comb through the waters, and take every fish they can get – no matter the size of it – there is not fish enough to feed the Gambian people.

It’s not easy for a layman to know if the salesmen tell the truth or not, when they explain the high costs with circumstances they can’t control. That is only a part of the truth, but I think that you are not as easily fooled as we are here in Sweden. We are not used to discuss prices, we have fixed prices more or less everywhere, so it took some time before we began to understand that we were fooled. Something I have learned, during my stays in The Gambia, is not to pay the given price, but always try to negotiate. Of course you have shops with fixed prices, but most of the time it is possible to discuss it. With your system, you are always suspicious when it comes to prices and you never hesitate to negotiate. We feel shy to do that, and it takes long before we change our mindset.

The war in Ukraine has affected us all in many ways. During normal circumstances they grow a lot of wheat and sunflowers there, but the war has put an end to most of this. They are lucky if they are able to grow enough to feed their own people. The wheat and sunflower oil were two large export products, but the war has made it very hard to produce and export the products. The cost of fuel is sky high in Ukraine and being on the fields is extremly dangerous. Sitting in a slow moving tractor the farmer is an easy target for a missile or a drone.

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It is easy to blame the war for the rising prices, I’m sure you have heard that as an explanation too. This is a part of the explanation, but greedy people have always taken advantage of other people’s misfortune. The demand for certain products is deciding the cost, and in a country where you don’t have a control system of the prices, these can rise without control. We have heard that there are other costs that have increased in The Gambia, but these can’t be blamed on the war in Ukraine or anywhere else. New taxes and new fees are implemented and are making life even harder for poor people.

The economy of The Gambia is dwindling at the same time as all the costs are becoming higher. The government is borrowing money to be able to pay for ….yes, for what?

You are left with the debt to pay, but you are not informed of the necessity of the huge loans. There is no development of the country, no young and well educated people who will be the new tax payers and who are prepared to take their responsibility to build up the country. If you expect someone to invest their time and effort in something, they must feel that they will benefit from all that. As the situation is looking at the moment, there is not much hope for the young ones. What do they have to hope for? It is easier to look at what they are afraid of.

There is a saying: Tough times don’t last, tough people do. Thank God for your amazing endurance, for your deep belief that life will become better one day. Hope is the last thing that leaves a human being, but is this hope enough when you are too hungry and too poor to feed either yourself or your family? I have a friend in Senegal who only drank attaya every day, instead of having food. The sweet attaya made him forget his hunger, but in the long run it is breaking down one’s health and causing malnutrition and diabetes. My friend made sure that his wife and children had something to eat every day. That was an action of love, and so many parents act in the same way. No matter the cost, they will try to feed their families, even if they will suffer themselves at the same time.

Imagine that the ones who are responsible for the wellbeing of a whole country, like yours for example, could act like a caring parent. Imagine that they made sure that all of you had enough food, affordable healthcare and that everyone had a proper education suitable for everyone’s abilities. Imagine that they made sure that whatever happens in the world around you, it should affect you as little as possible. They would make sure that every investment will benefit the people they care about, and if they were forced to borrow money they would tell you about it in advance and explain the purpose and the need. This sound like a dream or a fairy tale, doesn’t it, but it could actually be true.

Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. The saying doesn’t tell you for how long the tough times will last, it just gives us the hope that the tough times will end sooner or later. Tough people do last, and that is so true. When I speak about The Gambia to my friends and pupils, I tell them about your strength and your ability to find ways to enjoy life even if life is very hard. I speak about you with pride, but I hope and pray that you would find pride in yourself and not allow anyone to hold you down.

Try to look at your situation and your surroundings with the eyes of a stranger. What can you see that others see? Will it fill you with pride, or embarrassment? What can you do to be a part of the change for a better country? Ask yourself and don’t expect the government to give you the answers. We have seen that so far they don’t have the correct answers for hardly anything. They are struck by the disease called greedflation and for that there seems to be no cure.

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