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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Letters : The daily rants

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Dear editor
Politics, history and economics are what I keep harping on about.
What else could I be possibly talking about? Some of us might be already pissed off from the daily rants on the mundane taboo topic in the Gambian political discourse.
In politics, we talk about how best to develop the national economy and improve the living standards of the people. We don’t talk about rallying around the government and its economic development policies.

It’s the relevance of the national economic development policies of the government that makes the people rally around the government.
How could we rally around the government on national economic development policies that are just plainly stupid and counterproductive?
The economic development policies of the Barrow government are no different from building a mansion on sand dunes and telling the people to come inside.

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Surprisingly, some people are getting in the mansion that doesn’t have a foundation and they are asking others to come inside too. Some of us need a bit of the daily rants.
But how come we claimed to have economists and experts in everything and at the same time have gone quiet on the tunnel vision national economic development policies of the Barrow government? One doesn’t have to be an economist to figure out that the national economic development thinking in our government will not lead to the national development of The Gambia.

One just has to look at the economic conditions in the countries that have been pursuing the economic development policies that the Barrow government is copying.
The Barrow government sadly is a replica of the Jawara government. The Jawara government was just blindly following the neo-liberal economic policies of the IMF and the World Bank that led to the never-get-better economic conditions in the country, the precursor for the 1994 military takeover.

Sell off public assets, don’t regulate the market and set a price for labour and
private and public debt then becomes the albatross around the neck of our national development. Debt deflation, economic stagflation and inevitable political unrest follows.
In the West, it’s a return to the backward politics of the far right and in The Gambia, it’s the soldiers to the rescue once again! Or the majority of the people continue to live in abject poverty and national economic underdevelopment.

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And what makes the economic development policies of the Barrow government so stupid is that The Gambia doesn’t have the capacity to bail out its economy and to double down on the daft policies of 0% interest rates and quantitative easing.
It’s not about picking up a fight with anyone. It’s about pursuing microeconomic development policies that will actually develop the Gambian economy and improve the living standards of the people. It’s unbelievable that the failed neoliberal economic development policies of the Jawara government that led to the Jammeh military takeover are the same economic policies that the Barrow government is pursuing.

We have a mediocre government and a very docile political environment in The Gambia. If we allow the Barrow government to go unchallenged on its stupid political and economic development management of The Gambia, we’ll soon be back to where we thought we have left behind.
It seems we have not learned anything from our recent political past.
Jawara 2.0 will only lead to another political and economic crisis for The Gambia.
We have to change direction or we’ll arrive at the same destination again.

Yusupha ‘Major’ Bojang





World Press Freedom Day

Dear editor,
World Press Freedom is a momentous occasion for journalists and news consumers across the world, and for The Gambia, in particular, because the country has come a long way, in this regard.
Since the downfall of the Jammeh regime, media freedom has bloomed in The Gambia.

Media outlets, print and digital, are ubiquitous. Within the two years of Barrow’s administration, The Gambia now has multiple independent TV stations, including QTV, Paradise TV and Star FM, in addition to online media houses such as Mengbe Kering, FatuNetwork and Kerr Fatu. Freedom of expression is a right that everybody enjoys nowadays. Almost everybody takes to social media platforms to express their views on all national issues, no matter how critical, without being dragged to the spy agency for questioning or subjected to brutal torture. Jammeh’s reign of intimidation transcended The Gambia’s boundaries for the bulk majority of Gambians in the diaspora rarely made any critical comment on Facebook, or other social media platforms, in fear of reprisal against their loved ones back home. Those who dared to had to remain in exile or flew to Dakar to meet family members.

Jammeh, who characterised mainstream media as unpatriotic, was notorious for muzzling independent media and curtailing freedom of expression; he closed down private media houses and forced others who chose to stay, to operate on his own terms. Jammeh’s government was ruthless with citizens who dared to express dissenting views, especially the journalists. In the process, two prominent journalists were reportedly murdered, namely Deyda Hydara and Ebrima ‘Chief’ Manneh. A number of journalists survived assassination attempts and subsequently fled the country. Eventually, independent media was literally non-existent.

The Daily Observer that he owned served as his mouthpiece to sing his praises. The only state-owned national broadcaster, GRTS, was effectively turned into Jammeh’s propaganda machinery, dedicating hours to covering his various activities
Nevertheless, several senior officials have recently expressed disparaging remarks about social media. The SIS director Ousman Sowe and newly nominated MP Foday Gassama have spoken about the need to regulate social media. The Information minister Ebrima Sillah, himself a victim of Jammeh’s brutal regime, recently accused the independent media of spreading “fake” news, hence called on the people to turn to the state broadcaster for “accurate information”. The statement, which might be politically motivated, was received with dismay by many who looked up to him as a custodian of the media. Minister Sillah, a veteran journalist, should have engaged the independent media rather than make such a generalised statement.
The government ought to maintain the credentials it has earned in terms of press freedom, by upholding this fundamental right.

Basidia M Drammeh

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