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Monday, October 2, 2023

‘Voracious appetite for loans on white elephant projects destroying economy’

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By Tabora Bojang

Economist and opposition UDP chieftain, Momodou Sabally, has warned that the government’s “insatiable appetite” to borrow more loans to fund infrastructure projects has serious and disastrous micro-economic implications leading to more poverty, rise in the cost of living and high public debt.

Since coming to power, the Barrow government has been accused of embarking on unprecedented borrowing more than any government since independence, to do roads and bridges at the expense of economic growth and fiscal discipline.  

Finance Minister Seedy Keita disclosed to lawmakers last December that The Gambia’s public debt as of September 2022, stood at D90.7 billion.

Last Tuesday the National Assembly endorsed the government’s plan to borrow US$15.31 million (D891 million) from Islamic Development Bank to support the completion of on-going works on the 22km Bertil Harding Highway. The minister said the money will be used to accommodate new adjustments to the initial work plan.

Reacting to these developments in a local programme anchored by popular Brikama radio journalist, Pa Modou Bojang, Sabally a former presidential affairs minister, who also worked at the Central Bank of The Gambia for many years, accused the government of “incapacitating the economy” due to bad economic and monetary policies and programmes.

He said no government in the The Gambia has been so “intoxicated” with contracting loans to the extent of borrowing domestically to finance infrastructure projects.

“All these loans are leading us into severe economic distresses, hopelessness and high cost of living and disaster. Road infrastructure is one of the most expensive activities for the government but from the first republic to the second republic none of them borrowed internal loans to finance road infrastructure. We only see it happening under the Barrow government and they did not do it in good faith and love for the country. They did it to deceive Gambians by going to the provinces and constructing bad roads when elections are  approaching just to win votes,” Sabally charged.

He said the Barrow government is not serious about commitments to put in place sound economic and fiscal policies to get the economy out of the woods and improve the quality of lives of Gambians.

“The loans come with interest rates leading to increases in our debt servicing, high taxation and high inflation. There is no profit in all this debt accumulation. President Barrow has no interest in improving the quality of lives of Gambians. He is doing all this for politics. These are white elephant projects and they come with serious and disastrous microeconomic implications for the citizens,” he criticised.

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