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Thursday, February 29, 2024
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President anti-Borrow?

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Dear editor,

A recent issue of The Voice Newspaper reported President Barrow announced during his country tour increases of GoTG service fees like those for IDs, Passports, Licenses and many other documents. Others reported the President revealed he will boost nearly all taxes. He is said to have justified these adjustments as his noble effort to reduce GoTG dependence on foreign donor loans and the ‘strings’ attached to those loans. Although he might want to be remembered as President Anti-Borrow, the ongoing stream of reported funding from here and there for this and that continues despite his wishful thinking.

There is more to the story. On 1st Nov 2023 the IMF reported they agreed to loan GoTG about US$11 million. Their rather confusing statement suggested GoTG wanted to borrow US$100 million. Among the list of things the IMF expects GoTG to achieve is a “strong domestic revenue mobilization”. Gambia’s tax/GDP ratio is too small they say. This ‘string’ attached to the new IMF loan explains the new fee and tax program.

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Reducing reliance on foreign sources for loans to keep the GoTG solvent means more than increasing GoTG ‘revenues’. That’s a ‘no brainer’ up to a point … you ‘can’t wring blood from a turnip’ the saying goes. The Gambia is a poor country. How about spending cuts? The growing civil service payroll is ripe for trimming. Thankfully, the National Assembly’s Finance and Public Accounts Committee seems to be doing a much-needed hatchet job on the regime’s proposed 2024 budget. Of course, as is the case with most negotiations, the parties usually ask for more than what they are willing to settle for.

Other reports of new ‘funding’, like US$60 million from the World Bank, other sources of ‘funding’ for completing UTG’s Faraba Banta campus and the OIC projects, for example, do not seem to support the President’s stated goal of reaching financial independence. Quite the contrary.

Incidentally, the government (and journalists) need to be specific when they use the word ‘funding’. Time and again news stories and advertisements use words like ‘funded by …(insert World Bank, IMF, AfDB, IDA, EXIM and others)’. Unless the word ‘grant’ is mentioned, ‘funded by so and so’ and ‘so and so provided a facility’ are code words for loans that need to be repaid someday. And repaid in US$ or Euros. Repaying these loans is one of the many causes of the steady erosion of the foreign exchange value of the Dalasi and Gambia’s nearly 20% inflation rate. So is spending more than your income.

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Amet Ngallan

Fajara

The lasting legacy of song: A call for thoughtful lyrics

Dear Gambian musicians, especially the upcoming ones. I wish to urge you to reconsider your lyrical choices. It is your responsibility to understand the importance of creating a legacy that withstands the sands of time. As musicians, your art holds the power to shape culture and leave a lasting impact on generations to come. It is a unique privilege, and with it comes a responsibility to create music that stands the test of time. In The Gambia recently, there has been a rising trend in songs containing insults and foul language.

While freedom of expression is a cornerstone of artistic creation as well as a constitutional right, it is crucial to recognize that words carry weight and leave indelible imprints on both listeners and the artists themselves. Songs filled with insults and swearword may garner attention in the present, but as time progresses, their significance may fade, leaving behind a legacy that musicians might not be proud to embrace in their later years.

As artists, you are architects of culture, influencing attitudes, shaping perspectives, and contributing to the social fabric. Choosing to fill your songs with insults and foul language risks alienating a portion of your audience, limiting the universality and timelessness of your work. The magic of enduring music lies in its ability to transcend the immediate, connecting with people across generations. A song that relies heavily on insults may find itself confined to a specific moment in time, losing relevance as societal norms evolve.

Consider the great musicians of the past, Oussou Njie Sr (RIP)., Tatadinding Jobarteh (RIP), Lalo Kebba Drammeh (RIP) whose works have stood as pillars of inspiration for decades. Their lyrics often conveyed profound emotions, societal observations, and universal themes. The longevity of their impact stems from the reliability and timelessness embedded in their songs. Strive to create music that echoes on a deeper level, capturing the essence of the human experience without resorting to gratuitous insults or offensive language.

As individuals evolve and mature, their perspectives on life inevitably change. What may seem edgy and rebellious in youth might be viewed differently in the reflective years of maturity. Musicians should aim to create a body of work that they can look back on with pride and satisfaction, knowing that their art contributed positively to the cultural tapestry these are the words of the late Oussou Njie Senior. May his soul rest in peace.

This is a call to musicians to consider the enduring legacy they wish to leave behind. Embrace the power of words to uplift, inspire, and connect rather than to divide or offend. By choosing thoughtful and timeless lyrics, musicians can ensure that their artistic contributions withstand the test of time, resonating with listeners for generations to come.

Lamin B Barra

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