By Omar Bah
The National Assembly Member for Serekunda has urged the government to initiate a salary commission to address challenges faced by Gambians in putting food on the table.
Speaking in a Star FM exclusive to be aired on Wednesday, PDOIS NAM Musa Cham expressed concern over the difficulties Gambians are facing with the little salaries they earn to put food on the table or even pay rent.
“Whether you are a National Assembly Member or a president, your preoccupation should be how to address the plight of your people. Gambians are intolerant today because of the environment and the way we live. Everywhere, we are fighting, pushing, and pulling each other all because of the stress to put food on the table,” he said.
He said in all the countries that are progressing around the world, their governments have put a lot of focus on the plight of the people.
“I think we should establish a salary commission and assess the food basket of every household and see their monthly expenditure so that you would be able to establish a salary package,” he said.
Commenting on water shortage in Serekunda, Cham said he had raised the issue with the Minister of Energy at the National Assembly. “His answer was that the demand is greater than the generation capacity. However, my position is that if the demand is higher, they should increase the generation because people cannot live without water,” he said.
KMC revenue generation
He said the government should turn Serekunda into a business hub to help them and the council generate money to invest in other areas.
Cham added that the council has inherited ancient means of generating revenue, which are indigenous. He said the council should be creative enough to engage in money-making businesses to generate more revenue.
“The council should be able to identify one kilometer within the market area. Any compound owner who wants to sell his or her house should be able to contact the council and see how best they could buy it. That is the way to go,” he said. Commenting on the clearing of major roads, Honorable Cham said it is welcomed by 90% of Gambians but argued that those responsible are overdoing it. “It was never in the agreement for them to demolish shelters mounted in people’s shops,” he said.
He said the councils should look for other means to create space for those who were sent out of the streets because, without that, they stand to lose a lot of revenue.
“KMC could even start with the Sandiga area, where they can build storey buildings to create the necessary spots for businesses. They can also create more shopping malls around the city. I urge that this year’s budget cater for the market expansion program,” he stated.
He said the council should be able to talk to businesses to create an avenue where they will meet women in their gardens and buy their vegetables from them.
“We should also create cooling stores in the markets to store these vegetables. We need to be creative to be able to address all these issues of people sitting on the streets selling things,” he said.
He said the proliferation of small markets is a big issue in Serekunda, adding that it is the responsibility of physical planning to create zones where businesses, schools, and garages would be stationed.
“But they have not been doing that, and for that reason, everywhere is so disorganised,” he said.
Former presidents’ bill
Commenting on the former presidents’ bill, Cham said he walked out because he was against the bill being considered a matter of urgency.
“This is why the minority caucus left, and those who thought the bill was urgent stayed to debate it. This was not a partisan issue but an issue of the minority caucus. We just wanted the bill to follow due process that other bills follow,” he added.
He said when the bill was initially put to ballot, the Nos had it, but the minority leader called for a division, and because the vote was not done in secret, some of the NAMs who initially rejected it voted for it.
Cham said with the opportunities accorded to a president, he sees no reason why a former president should be accorded such benefits in the current bill.
“As president, the state is taking care of your family… We pay your children’s school fees and take care of your feeding and every other need,” he said.
He said the government should have prioritised an incoming presidents’ bill to avoid what happened in 2016.
“As an incoming president, the moment you are elected, you should be given protection by the state until you are sworn in,” he said.
He said the rent amendment bill is very important because the country’s rent issue should be addressed.
“How can you receive a D5,000 salary and pay the same amount for rent? Is that sustainable? So, the government should come up with means and see how to remedy this situation,” he said.