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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Re: Gambia can be a highly developed country…

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The Standard newspaper has a piece reporting on the outcome of an interview the paper had with Abdoulie Bax Touray – a friend and a former colleague – who was part of a large delegation I led on my first mission to India as Jammeh’s Foreign Minister from January 11 – 13, 2005.  

It was that mission that kick-started the current Gambia-India bilateral relations which eventually led to the Ex-Im Bank of India’s investment activities.

Bax’s contention that The Gambia can attain middle income country (MIC) status in a generation is a reasonable prognosis to make but it comes with a series of caveats that can land one in serious trouble with the regime if mentioned. But one of these caveats is bad governance, a malaise that hardly goes hand in hand with economic progress i.e. growth and development.  

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In support of his premise, Bax rightly cited Singapore (a favorite example of many) as a country that gained independence the same year as The Gambia whose per capital income was lower than those of Senegal, Ghana, Gambia which I have no problems with.  But a more appropriate example, and one that is closer to home, is Cabo Verde that has achieved MIC status in a little over a generation but not before it pulled out of its federation with mainland Guinea-Bissau to become independent – a step that insulated itself from what appeared to have been a permanent state of revolution and coup d’etats.  I am simply buttressing Bax’s prognosis to signal my agreement. 

I would like to say to Bax that I have read Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” but must admit that I haven’t read Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” but will now since Bax has recommended it.  But I’ll implore my good friend (and that goes for my Facebook friends as well) to read Paul Colliers “The Bottom Billion” on how fifty (50) FAILED STATES, home to one billion is the biggest challenge of the rest of the world in the 21st century. Collier’ fifty failed states will necessarily include most of the African countries that we normally will categorise as success stories. 

The former chairman of the World Bank’s Development Research Group and now back at Oxford suggests that the ravages of civil wars, dependence on extraction industries and export of natural resources and bad governance, including rampant corruption.  

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The problems posed by these countries are so ingrained that standard prescriptions no longer work.  But because we insist on applying the same prescriptions in the midst of rapid globalisation and a shifting terms of trade that continue to favor rich countries, we’ve missed the boat.  The last to hop onboard before the ship set sail were Mauritius and Cabo Verde.

But all is not lost, according to Collier. He has specific recommendations to make including that the G-8 takes the lead by offering “preferential trade deals, new laws against corruption, new international charters and even conduct carefully calibrated military intervention.”  

In short, business as usual is no longer applicable and neither desirable in a human condition that is dire that continues to be aggravated by bad governance and a global trade that is tilted against the bottom one billion humans on earth. The 21st century needs 21st century solutions to a Gambian (and African) condition that is yearning for news ways and approaches of addressing a looming humanitarian catastrophe that threatens the lives of one billion people around the world.  

Sidi Sanneh



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