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Sunday, July 21, 2024
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The relationship between government and SOEs

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State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are basically businesses run by enterprises on behalf of the State i.e. the public. This in effect means that these are service providers who are also expected to collect and bring revenue for the government of the country.

It is therefore necessary to monitor these to see whether they are providing quality services on one hand, and paying dividends on the other. If they are not bringing any revenue or paying dividend, then they are more of a liability to the state than assets.

One State Owned Enterprise in the news these days, for the wrong reasons, is the Gambia Ferry Services (GFS) which is under the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) following an incident at sea when the Kanilai Ferry was unable to dock at Barra and was there for hours. The other ferry was brought in to rescue it but even that failed. The passengers had to be evacuated on the backs of porters.

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A video of this unfortunate incident has been making the rounds and Gambians, home and abroad, have been criticizing the management of GPA and by extension, the Government of the Gambia for risking the lives of citizens who are compelled to board these ferries on a daily basis in order to take care of their daily activities.

As discussions on this became heated around the country, the Managing Director of the Gambia Ferry Services spoke to journalists revealing that eighty-five percent of their revenue goes into paying of salaries of their staff. This leaves only fifteen percent for maintenance and running cost. One does not need to be a genius or a finance expert to know that, that is not viable.

What kind of business spends eighty-five percent of its revenue on paying of salaries? How will the ferries be maintained and what kind of profit will they make? If they cannot even run the ferries efficiently, how will they give dividends to the Government? This shows that on that front, making profits, the GFS is not a viable venture.

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The other aspect of it is the provision of services to the Gambian people. Do the ferries provide satisfactory services to the people of the Gambia? It is clear from the repeated incidents of ferries being stranded at sea for hours that the services of the GFS are far from being efficient. What then is the purpose of such an enterprise?

It was on the news recently that the GPA gave 30 million dalasis towards the refurbishment of the Independence Stadium. The question here is, if the GPA is running the ferries and the ferries are dying and putting the lives of thousands of Gambians at risk why are they giving such amounts to other government departments when their own house is in a mess?

If the Gambia Ports Authority is unable to operate the ferries efficiently, why don’t they give it back to the government who will do the needful? It is necessary to ensure that the people of the Gambia are given the respect and honour they deserve and that they should be provided with quality services.

Holders of public office must remember that whatever they are doing, they are doing for, and on behalf of the Gambian people. This is the social contract which must be put into consideration at all times.  

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