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City of Banjul
Monday, October 26, 2020

Hidden treasures

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With Aisha Jallow

The Gambian economy is like a pair of worn out pants with holes in its pockets. It doesn’t matter how much money is put in those pockets, it will disappear and no one seems to know where. I will begin this article by quoting an interview made by BBC in January 19, 2017.

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”Speaking to the BBC three days before the election, Mr Barrow said that Gambians ‘had been suffering for 22 years’ and were ready for change.
He scorned the achievements of his opponent, who boasted of having brought The Gambia out of the stone age with his education and health programmes.
The hospitals President Jammeh had built had ‘no drugs… or quality doctors’, the schools ‘no teachers, no chairs… no good educational materials, he said.
They were white elephant projects.”

If you are not familiar with the expression ”white elephant projects” it means that the project is very expensive but leads to nothing. Why a ”white elephant”? Because that rare animal was given as a gift by South East Asian monarchs to their enemies. The animal was useless, it was considered as sacred so it could neither be used for work nor killed. The receiver had to keep the animal and feed it at a high cost. Let us look at President Barrow’s statements; the hospitals had no drugs or good doctors, the schools had no teachers, no chairs, no good educational material.

What improvements have been done since Barrow’s inauguration as the third president of The Gambia? Where did his boasting lead us? Are all the hospitals well-equipped now? What about the schools? Do we have qualified teachers everywhere in the Gambia now? Are the teachers well paid? Do they have adequate material for their teaching? Don’t they need to buy any equipment anymore, can the teachers go to a room at their school where they will find all the material they need? Is equal education for all Gambian children the melody our president is singing? Is he just as keen to give other kids the same quality education as his own kids are having?

What about the health care system in The Gambia? Do we have enough doctors and nurses now? Are all the hospitals equipped with everything they need? Don’t we have to go abroad anymore to get better health care than we can have in The Gambia? If that would be a fact, then I could give the president a pat on his shoulder, but the problem is that nothing much has improved. More than three years have gone since President Barrow’s inauguration and what has he got to boast about? Can you think of something? I am really trying to be fair, but I can’t think of anything.

The only things that have improved are the president’s waist line and the numbers in his bank account. Isn’t it convenient that the First Lady cannot be forced to declare her assets? The sweet number of millions found in her bank account is still undeclared and now it seems as we will never know where they came from. The transparency President Barrow and his ilk promised us is a shame! People like him are so full of untruth they even believe themselves. How much are the Gambian people paying President Barrow for his services? Does he really earn that much to build big and fancy houses both in Senegal and in The Gambia? He makes sure to get away with as much as possible because deep down in his mind he knows that he will not be re-elected. We can’t afford to let him stay!
Let us look at the recent news and a clip from this newspaper:
”Finance Minister Mambury Njie has disclosed that the government spent D5.08 billion between January and April 2020, almost D2 billion more over the same period last year, when government expenditure was D3.95 billion.”

2 billion dalasi! Is there anyone who can imagine that amount of money? There are so many zeros in that amount so my thumb would get numb if I would try to write it down for you. For a period of four months almost two billion more have been spent than the same period last year! This is making me sick! Where does all this money come from? The Gambian revenue is going down according to the Minister of Finance. That can’t come as a surprise for anyone of us, but where is our current government leading the country? To bankruptcy! I am not that good at economics, but even I can figure out that if I don’t have any money, I can’t spend any money. Also that if I borrow money from someone, it has to be paid back sooner or later.

What is the plan for our current government? To gain as much as possible, hide their treasures and live a good life somewhere abroad the day they have lost the election? Believe me, the day will come when every stone will be lifted to find those who are hiding themselves and their treasures under it! Does anyone wonder why President Barrow is building a house in Senegal? It’s because he will be protected by his buddy Macky Sall when he goes running one day.

“Government did allocate an additional D500 million to the Ministry of Health under another recurrent which was obtained by reallocating budget votes from various budget entities and channelled towards combatting Covid-19 pandemic. The bulk of the reallocation came from travel expenses, training and other non-essential budget line items,” he said.
Minister Njie said as of April 2020, personal emolument increased from D1.02 billion in 2019 to D1.34 billion in 2020 recording a 31% year on year growth.
“We will nonetheless take all necessary steps to ascertain budget execution is conducted in a prudent and disciplined manner and avoid major fiscal slippages from now until end of 2020,” he added.

He also revealed that the country’s revenue is going down.”
I’m not complaining about the steps taken towards combatting Covid-19, this horrible pandemic needs to be handled, but it seems as all expenses have been skyrocketing. It is easy to use a lot of money for this and that, blaming the pandemic. The pockets in the pants of the pandemic combatants have as big holes as all the others. So much money has been used already and so little has been done. It doesn’t help that the Minister of Finance is looking at his audience with big and beautiful puppy eyes, telling them that they will act in a controlled manner from now on and really keep their eyes on the expenses. Isn’t that sweet? He was counting from January to April, now we are in the middle of June. More than half this year is left and too much of the budget is used already.

Maybe we should ask the Minister of Tourism and Culture for advice? Hamat Bah seems to be a man of determination and action. He dissolved the Gambia Tourism Board without any explanation. Doesn’t that sound strange to you? Does anyone else but me wonder why? In times of trouble, they should stick together and try to find new ways to save the tourism business in The Gambia. What has our minister done so far to help our struggling businesses? Where is the money that was supposed to help them? I tell you people, a lot of treasures are hidden everywhere. Keep your eyes on the money!

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