Diplomacy in the 21st century must be a win-win situation, the Senegalese gov’t must be told the truth
The decision of the Senegalese government to close its border to the export of cashew through the Gambia, the port of Banjul, is not only sad and unfortunate but a total violation of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement and trade across the borders of member states. In fact, it is a tacit indication that our leaders are good at signing regionally binding protocols but pay lip-service to implementation.
To understand the adverse implications that this decision will have on our people to people relations, coupled with the debilitating impact on the economy of the Gambia, I venture to provide an insight on the issue, to raise the consciousness of the Barrow government on this matter as well as to urge it to leave the sanctuary of silence on this grave issue.
The Gambian economy is largely and principally one which is backward, typical of all underdeveloped countries that are stuck up in the production and exportation of raw materials for the economies of the first world. However, the most productive sector of our economy is the tourism sector, but recent statistics point to a deep decline of revenue in this sector due to the global economic slowdown. In addition, the exportation of cashew through the port of Banjul has also been a sustainable pillar for the generation of huge revenue for our government.
With the moratorium in place on the exportation of cashew, GPA will lose handing of 1000 containers of cashew which is equivalent to 7,500,000 Euros on the handing of empty containers and 100,000 Euros on the full loading of containers. Furthermore, customs will lose the customs duties of 100000 Euros, Income tax will lose the vat attached to the exportation of the cashew nuts.
Meanwhile, as if this was not a hard hit, expect our local truckers and laborers to lose this attractive business valued at GMD2m. Our clearing and forwarding agents will lose GMD750000. Simply, profit will fall, people will go out of business, thus increasing the unemployment rate in our country.
Indeed, this action will create a black hole in the revenue envelope of our government. Economic growth will decline, living standards will plummet; wages will flatten, and foreign currency earning is expected to dwindle. Thus, a huge swath of our population whose only means of survival hinges on the trade of Cashew will be badly affected. For a country that is struggling to get its act together after years of misrule, this decision will gravely undermine the gains we have made.
History teaches us that when the economy of a country enters recession, this can lead to an upsurge in social unrest, as the people will take to the street to demand their governments to act. This may lead to social chaos on a huge scale, which could turn violent. It may have a toll on the general morale of our country.
Barrow government cannot afford to play gross indifference to this crisis. Leadership must be mustered and principled diplomacy ought to take preeminence. He must inform his Senegalese counterpart that a stable Gambia is one and at the same time a stable Senegal. He should tell President Macky Sall that when the Gambia gets hard hit by such policy, citizens may seek refuge in Senegal in search of greener pasture, which will place a strain on the Senegalese economy.
May I therefore urge the government to engage with the Senegalese government through diplomacy. I firmly believe that reason will prevail, and the decision will be rescinded.
Ansumana B Bojang
University of The Gambia