By Alagie Manneh
A number of National Assembly Members yesterday slammed the 2020 budget draft estimates, saying it does not address the development needs of Gambians.
They were debating and considering the 2020 draft estimates of revenue and expenditure.
The NAM for Banjul South, Fatoumatta Njai, called it a “sad” document.
She said: “As a developing nation, we should focus more on what develops our country. What develops our country better than health for our children?”
She said while the government continues to place emphasis on the President’s Office, and other ministries like Interior, “our children are sitting on floors in our schools. Their toilets are appalling”.
She said Gambians should care less about rumours that a particular minister travels by economy class. “Madam Speaker, he can travel by cart, for all we care, as long as our citizens are well taken care of when they are in need,” she said.
Speaking further, she asked why Defence wants to get D773, 602,551: “Are we working to feed the army that is of no relevance to this country? I think the president should have sympathy for the people who voted him in and send those monies to youth and sport. Every country now is promoting sports. The lady who went to the Olympics, nobody cared about her.”
The president’s proposal for more advisers was also seriously criticised, with several NAMs calling for it to be scrapped from the 2020 budget estimates.
“Just because someone supported you during the campaign, you want to appease him or her by employment even when the person is not qualified?” charged GDC NAM Omar Ceesay, the youngest parliamentarian in The Gambia.
Jangjangbureh’s Momodou S Ceesay quipped: “I would want to know the reason why Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior are given more money than the Ministry of Agriculture, on which more than half of the population of The Gambia depend. What do we tell our electorate, that we gave Defence over a billion, and agriculture 300 million?”
Serekunda NAM Halifa Sallah said a recurrent budget is not about development, but about maintaining a state and services.
“All that you see there [in the budget] is payment on rent, electricity, travels… It is not going to agriculture to build the productive base of the country. Our duty is not to live to extinction, our duty is to sustain, maintain, and improve and develop. The recurrent budget is simply an articulation of the demands of our public services.
“We are seeing in the estimates settlement of unconfirmed debts, year in, year out, since the First Republic. Over 300 million, annually, to settle unconfirmed debts is something that should not continue under this house,” he said.
There were also calls to downsize embassies, with many saying embassies have increased in the last two years “unnecessarily to appease those supporters of the current government”.