Here we go again!

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With Aisha Jallow

The tourism season is about to begin , and the normal routine among every business depending on the tourism is that the preparations are in full bloom. Artists are creating paintings, making batik, carving wooden statues and weaving baskets. Every salesman or -woman are hoping to get a good income from the crowds of tourists visiting the craft markets. Hopefully the tourists are not skilled in haggling the prices so there will be some bargains done and the depts could be payed. There are so many expences in advance, but all will be good when the tourists are arriving.

Oops! Let’s stop for a second! Which tourists? There are no crowds of tourists anymore thanks to president Barrow and his minions. Sorry, I really tried, but I couldn’t stop myself from commenting the last stupid statement from President Barrow. Poor guy, I am whipping his butt every now and then, and the sad thing is that he had it coming. I really wish I didn’t have any reason for being critical, but with a man like President Barrow holding the highest position in The Gambia, and at the same time holding the lowest level of common sense, it is a crucial combination. I don’t for a second believe that he owns a position where he can’t be criticised. No human being is flawless, and just because someone happens to be a president we can’t say yes and amen to everything he says. He is supposed to be a servant of the Gambian people, not the other way around.

While President Barrow was in New York, USA, he was visited by a group of Gambians living in the diaspora. They questioned the $20 security port fee all passengers have to pay at their arrival and departure at the airport in Banjul. This fee has been questioned several times recently, but this was the first time the president responded. In his usual way he was unable to give a proper reason, and as this question came unprepared, no one had written an answer for Barrow and given it to him in advance so he didn’t have to stand there and embarrass himself. When I read the president’s reply, I wanted to cover my eyes with my hands, because I felt ashamed on his behalf.

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Do you know the feeling when you watch a movie, or a show etc and someone is making a complete fool of themselves? You sit there on your sofa, and you whimper in agony. You cover your face with a cushion, saying no, no, no, stop it, don’t do it! That is how I felt when I continued reading about President Barrow’s statements. He really doesn’t understand the problem, and that is making things worse. It is like he believes that people are cheap and that is why they don’t want to pay the security levy. It is obvious that President Barrow is so far away from the reality all of us others are living in. He certainly doesn’t have to pay the levy, he doesn’t have to pay for anything actually because the Gambian people are paying for all his expences.

Here is a cut from the article I am refering to:

”According to Jamaanoo news online, President Barrow told a gathering of Gambian community in New York that “the $20 airport security levy will help the country in terms of development”.

What development? It is a foreign company that has implemented the levy, and who is gaining from it. The agreement is for 10 years, and there are still 8 years left of it. Development of what? Tell us that! Tell us what will be developed by this levy president Barrow at first pretended he didn’t know anything about. Could minister Hamat Bah tell us what will be developed by the security levy? The only thing I can see being developed are the numbers on Barrow’s and Hamat Bah’s bank accounts. It is a shame that the corruption is growing larger while the opportunities for the Gambian people are growing smaller. It is a shame to read President Barrow’s speech at the UN meeting in the US, where he tried to paint the development of The Gambia in bright colours while all of us can see nothing but dark days coming.

President Barrow said, according to Jamanoo news online, that they wanted the levy to be included in the ticket price. This was hard to do, so they did it anyway…. If you find that sentence a bit hard to understand, you are exactly right, because it is not logical at all – just as Barrow’s reasoning. The normal procedure is to find out how to implement something new, and to look at the consequences first before you go on. In this case the levy was implemented and in a normal Gambian way those responsible for it hoped that no one would notice and complain. Well, it took 2 years, but people are tired of the corruption and it is about time that we are demanding some very good reasons.

I wish to share with you another part of the news from Jamanoo online:

”The ticketing system is international, so to include it there is difficult,” the president said.

“But we are trying to get it included because it’s $20. And I know everyone in this country goes to The Gambia once every year and I believe it’s reasonable that one gives D1,000 or D2,000 to The Gambia. We want people to pay because everyone wants development,” he said.

Come on, Mr Barrow! Don’t you think us in the diaspora are doing enough for The Gambia already? The finances of the country are depending on us, our money is a large part of the GDP, but for you it is not enough? What do you want more? The numbers for our bank accounts so you can withdraw the money without delay? ”We want people to pay because everyone wants development.” It sounds like a statement of a child who is not satisfied with the size of his pocket money. This is so embarrassing and I feel so sorry for all of them who are depending on the tourism and who has lost all hope for this coming season.

There are no traders unions for the small tourism businesses. The competition between all the actors on the market is tough and the margins are very small. Everything is expensive, look at the tour operators for example. The price of the petrol is high and the tour operators, who are using their own vehicles, also have to pay tax and other fees. The cost of food is high, but the lunch that is included in most of the tours, can’t be too high otherwise the tourists are not prepared to pay for it. If we look at all the costs for a tour, there is not much money left for the operators after all the expences are payed.

What saddens me in this case is that President Barrow is so careless. He doesn’t think before he speaks out, and he doesn’t seem to have good advisors. The decisions made of few, are affecting so many in times that are so hard already. Instead of making life easier for the Gambian people, it has become even worse now. The smiles have faded away along the coast of The Gambia. Looking at people you instead see their sad eyes because of all the worries about their daily life. Do you see that, President Barrow?