By: Dawda Baldeh
The leader of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), Mama Kandeh, has told Gambian Government to revisit their recent Asset Recycling Agreement with Africa50 on the Senegambia Bridge.
Kandeh cited long-term financial implications on the country’s economy if the agreement is not reconsidered.
“We deem it necessary to bring to light the flaws and drawbacks of this agreement which has grave implications on the Gambian economy and the welfare of our citizens.
We are concerned with the long-term financial implications that this arrangement will impose on the Gambian economy,” Kandeh said in a statement.
According to Kandeh, the agreement indicates an unfavorable financial return for the government compared to the potential benefits of the bridge if operated and managed by the government itself.
He said the government is depriving itself of a significant revenue stream that could be utilized for the nation’s development and improvement of essential services by mortgaging the bridge.
Contrary to the government’s justifications for pursuing this deal, the GDC leader said it is important to note that the bridge has the potential to generate substantial revenue if operated and managed by the government.
He mentioned that mortgage decision seems unnecessary and counterproductive to the best interests of the nation.
He said the government has also contradicted its actions in the recent establishment of a Ministry of Digital Economy aimed at modernizing and digitalizing the country’s economic system.
“It is perplexing that while the government claims to prioritize digitalization, it has chosen to relinquish control of critical infrastructure like the Senegambia bridge to a private entity instead of managing it.
Allowing Africa50 to manage the bridge will inevitably create inconveniences for drivers as toll fees can be increased to the detriment of the bridge users,” he said.
The GDC leader added that the government has failed to consider the potential challenges and disruptions that may arise when the bridge is operated by a third-party entity.
Kandeh believes if there would have been asset recycling, Gamtel and Gamcel would have been a good pick since they have been struggling for survival for decades.
Commenting further, Kandeh quoted the Minister of Transport World and Infrastructure, Ebrima Sillah, saying the Minister confirmed that the two bridges in the Upper River Region, where the government spent huge amounts of money, were neglected by them.
“This shows the lack of seriousness in our public officials to be at speed in their tasks. The two bridges in Basse are so much important to the development of the country.
We urge the government to prioritize the use of CCTV cameras and a digitalized ticketing system which we believe have been less effective.
This will guarantee transparency and accountability in the operation of the bridge and will help reduce corruption and ensure the benefits of the project reach the Gambian people,” Kandeh emphasized.
He called on the government to engage the National Assembly on matters of such at all times. Additionally, the Executive and the Legislature must have a cordial working relationship to asses such an agreement on behalf of the Gambian people.
Kandeh claimed that the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, agreeing to the deal, is a loss to the nation.
“We believe the Minister should have been more acquainted with the economic realities and committed the nation to agreements of great interest,” he noted.