In my opinion, the Gambian banking industry is not serving the interest of our economy. Suffice it is to say that financial activity at every level in the sector is largely based on policies that are unfavourable to the growth of our economy. Not too long ago, we have heard experts putting the records straight. From what has been postulated by some, while the government’s overall investment mechanisms and incentives are good, yet we have a problem with our banking system. Seemingly , we have a parasitic banking system which does not favour our development.
Just last week, one opposition figurehead summed it up all. Hamat Bah said: “Most of our banks would not even invest in new projects. As a bank, you should be investing on the economy and supporting companies to grow because by doing that, you are supporting growth and creating jobs. Banks should make sure that companies that are viable are granted loans and that people with good project proposals are financed and jobs will be created to enable the economy be on the move.”
It is therefore fair to state that this is an era where banks are putting all the inefficiencies of improper management on investment. For the analysts, it is impossible to acquire loans in this country while arguing that the spread is one of the highest in the sub-region. This is a deterrent to investment and economic growth. Investment is not only determined by the state but other factors and there is need to revisit some of the sectors that can complement greater investment in the country. The lack of dynamism in the banking sector is a great concern to Gambians. There is need to put in place mechanism that will regulate the sector. There is also the case that government should encourage them to pick interest in major areas of development including the agriculture sector. Banks can be big promoters of the sector through loan schemes.
I strongly believe that government can get more out of these banks because it is all about regulation. We should make sure that banks are not allowed to get a spread of 12 percent because the money has to go back to the people and usually they should make only 1 percent in some of the financial transactions. In a situation where institutions are parasitic, when they make money, they don’t fulfill their mandate. Therefore in The Gambia, the cost of funds is a big deterrent to investment and government should step in to stop a system that is holding back the growth our economy.
Free Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt
It is 402 days today since four reportorial staff members of popular Middle-East based Al Jazeera network were arrested, detained, tried and jailed by the authorities in Egypt for allegedly broadcasting false news and conspiring with the outlawed Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
In December 2013, correspondent, Peter Greste, and producers, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed, were clamped in detention. Earlier, another Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Al Shami, had been hauled into the slammer, and began a protracted hunger strike on January 23rd 2014. On June 24th, 2014, a judge sentenced the journalists to jail terms ranging from seven to ten years, including those who were sentenced in absentia; a verdict that shocked media advocates around the world, including Reporters Without Borders and Committee to Protect Journalists. Al Jazeera issued several statements in defence of its staff, saying the accusations were trumped up based on written statements of staff of Egyptian state television, which they were unable to substantiate in court. The television network has since launched a worldwide campaign for pressure to be brought to bear on the Egyptian government to let its staff go, and the #FreeAJStaff has recorded over 800 million hits in more than 30 countries. We are lending our voice to this campaign. We are definitely against journalists getting involved in the internal politics of a country trapped in the kind of revolutionary turmoil that Egypt is just recently recovering from. We are gravely concerned that the high-handedness with which the Egyptian authorities have handled the case will embolden regimes around the world to stand between the people and their right to know what is happening in their country. We kick against any attempt to maintain an attitude of hostility towards newsmen or endanger their safety, as it does not augur well for a world order in which free flow and sharing of information has come to be taken as a human right. The trial of the Al Jazeera journalists did not meet the minimum standards in fair hearing and adequate assessment of evidence adduced in their defence. The sentencing itself was draconian and unacceptable in a democratic society. Now that the volatile situation in Egypt is under control, the regime will do well to demonstrate its goodwill by releasing the Al Jazeera journalists. It will help in further healing the wounds in Egypt and reassuring the world at large that the regime in power is more civilised and exemplary than the Muslim Brotherhood.