By Omar Bah
The European Union envoy to The Gambia, Attila Lajos has said that contrary to widespread comments, there are no ‘conditions’ attached to the international community’s €1.45 billion pledge to The Gambia at the recent donor conference in Belgium.
Speaking to The Standard recently, Lajos said as far as the EU is concerned, “the EU pledges were not conditional. The EU pledges are only conditional in the concept of the EU-Gambia cooperation, which states that as long as The Gambia remains on the democratic path and continues to carry on with the democratic transformation, the EU will be committed to support the change, so that is the only conditionality,” he clarified.
Commenting further, Ambassador Lajos said there was no connection between the donor conference and the migration issue in general as some sections of society are claiming.
Attila said the EU has no intention to give the Gambia Government cash for them to carry in their bags, noting that the European Union’s support is actually coming from the European tax payers.
“So there is a very firm and strict management put in place to ensure there is transparency and also to monitor the efficiency of the projects to make sure there is sustainable resource to the projects.
“The question of how do we disburse the different projects depends on the areas and on the methodology used. But in most of the cases, EU engages with international partners like UN agencies or other development partners to contract the projects to them and via them to deliver the projects to various beneficiaries,” he said.
He however stated that with the new dispensation in The Gambia, the EU is only giving them cash for budgetary support and all other major projects are channeled through non-state actors either local or international.
“This may change in the future once the government capacities are built in the future to be able to absorb such incoming support,” he said.
“The EU have a contract base agreement with the government under which we do disburse budgetary support and that is treasury cash transfer from treasury to treasury,” he added.
He also said some donors decide on which field or area they want to engage in.
“So it is up to the government and the donor partners to discuss what kind of support is going to which sector.”
Lajos further disclosed that the EU is yet to discuss with the Gambia Government on where exactly the €140 million additional support pledges by the EU at the donor conference would be spent.
He said the donor conference was beyond just financial pledges but it also resulted in an overwhelmingly high degree of commitment and support by the entire international community towards The Gambia.
Ambassador Lajos said given the fact that Gambia’s debt stands at 130% of the GDP, the government should take every measure possible to make a follow up on the pledges, especially the grants.
He further clarified that over 60% of the international community pledge is on loan whiles the grants are less than 40%.