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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Money, money, money…

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With Aisha Jallow

“Money, money, money

Must be funny

In the rich man’s world

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Money, money, money

Always sunny

In the rich man’s world

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All the things I could do

If I had a little money

It’s a rich man’s world

It’s a rich man’s world”

This is the chorus from a song made by the Swedish pop group ABBA. I’m sure many of you have heard about the group, they were very popular in 1972 to 1982, and were on tour all over the world. I read an article in The Standard Newspaper and the words of this song came to mind. The article is about the president’s meet the people tour and the issue was the increasing of the budget for that tour. It must feel great to always be able to justify added expenditures and knowing that you don’t have to pay for them yourself.

Let us begin with what the article told us:

”A proposal to increase the president’s meet the people tour from D10 million to D30 million has been approved by the National Assembly after a vote and heated debate on Wednesday.”

If the debate wouldn’t have been heated, there should have been something wrong in the minds of the members of the National Assembly, but the problem is that there were too few to oppose the suggestion.

What justifies this huge step from 10 million to 30 million Dalasi? Is there any budget done for the tour, or is there a wishlist made by the president and the other chaps who will join him?

Do they have to buy new buses for the tour, buy silver plates for the food and trained waitors in tuxedos to serve the entourage and wipe their mouths if they spill the food?

All costs have increased, so I understand that this unnecessary tour must become costlier than before, but then skip it! Skip the whole tour, because it doesn’t lead to anything good for anyone but those who follow the president around in the country. They are well fed during the tour, travel around comfortably and sleep in the best hotel rooms. On top of that, they also get a generous allowance for any expenses they might have – even though everything is paid for them.

Let us continue looking at what the article in The Standard Newspaper said:

”When the budget for the tour was called for consideration during the committee of supply stages, the NAM for Central Baddibu, Sulayman Saho proposed a motion for the budget to be pegged at D15million to help lower budget deficit and avoid insensitive spending.?His motion sparked controversy with majority of lawmakers disagreeing, arguing that the tour is a constitutional mandate and reducing its budget may constrict the president from exercising his constitutional responsibilities. ”

….”reducing its budget may constrict the president from exercising his constitutional responsibilities.” Doesn’t that sound impressing, that these NAMs care so much about the president and his constitutional responsibilities, until we get struck by the insight that there seems to have been no consideration about these responsibilities until now? Not until we speak about money that can become a large part in every other’s income for a while. What about the other constitutional responsibilities then? Why aren’t the NAMs reminding the president about them, and why don’t they help him to prioritize as we all know that the times are hard and the people are suffering?

I didn’t use to think that the National Assembly was a mutual admiration clud, but I seem to be wrong. Those in opposition do what they can to protest and find new solutions for old problems , but we also know that after the next election the positions might be changed and new people are invited to share the benefits. I so often wonder if the protests are honest and heart felt, or just for the sake of it. Is it more like a play where everyone has their own role and with that certain lines to say? It’s like a set of tennis, where the tennis balls fly over the net and someone will win. The problem is that this game is more unjust than tennis, because in our play the opposition doesn’t have as many tennis balls as the majority.

At the so-called heated debate, the Speaker then proposed voting for members to agree or disagree with the proposal to reduce it to D15 million.?Fifteen members, mainly comprising opposition NAMs, voted in support of the motion to reduce the budget while 26 voted against the reduction, maintaining it at D30 million in the 2024 budget as wished by government. ”As wished by the government” the article ends. It is soon Christmas, so the Gambian government has already written and sent in their wishlist for Santa Claus.

I wonder if their list began something like this:

”Dear Santa!

We have been good boys and girls all year since last Christmas, and therefore we wish to have this:

o          money

o          more money

o          benefits that can change into money

o          new toys, like a car or some land where I can build a house for myself and my play mates

The letter for Santa will be signed with

”Thank you, Santa, we love you!

How come the members of the National Assembly care so much about the meet the people tour that they wish to add that huge amount of money for it? Has there been any official declaration what the money will be used for? This is public money, scraped together by fingers working to the bones. The members of the National Assembly don’t care about sucking the blood out of any hard working Gambian, as long as there will be money enough for any wishlist made by any person who believes in their own importance.

In this Club for Mutual Admiration called the National Assembly, it is considered an honour to be a member, but never forget who is paying your salary and for whom you are working. The Gambian people have all the rights to expect a lot from you, and that lot doesn’t mean that you wish to spend a lot of money on things that don’t benefit the people. You are there for the people, by the people, but it seems that as soon as you step inside your chambers, you stop to see the reality and focus on scratching each other’s backs.

The promised transparency, that is so transparent that we haven’t seen it at all, should show us the budget for the meet the people tour and the justification of the expenditure. Ten million Dalasi is a lot, unimaginable lot of money. Fifteen million Dalasi is a lot more, and hard to believe how all this money can be spent on something that is only a waste of money, a joyride for the president and his selected entourage. From that amount to 30 million Dalasi is an insult to the Gambian people who suffer every day to make ends meet. How is it possible to look at yourself in the mirror and not feel ashamed?

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