Monday, April 22, 2024

The Gambia: Hard Economic Times in Ramadan

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OPINION

By Musa Bassadi Jawara

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The Gambia: Hard Economic Times in Ramadan

Commodity prices have skyrocketed and there is no end in sight. I was out and about the past few days, but what I saw out there was disturbing. This is no inflation or hyperinflation; what’s happening in Gambian markets is unquantifiable.

Life is becoming unbearable for the majority of families in this country. The fundamentals of the Gambian economy are poor: no productive base and the productivity index is negative. Macroeconomic nightmare and morass loom in vivid terms; inflation is out of control and the value of the national currency, the Dalasi, is the weakest it has been since it began circulation over 6 decades ago. I wrote an article beginning of the New Year and emphasized the greatest danger to the economy is the volatility of the exchange rate of the National Currency, which is hovering around D68 to 1 US dollars and risks further devaluation.

The economic outlook of this country is bleak. The standard of living of majority of the population will now decline at an accelerated pace. Neither government authorities nor members of the opposition who are aspiring to govern have the slightest inkling of redress. The opposition is at the Supreme Court challenging the legality of presidential appointments amid socio-economic calamity of gigantic proportions. Gambian people are tired and hungry. The opposition’s quest at the Supreme Court should have been magnanimously addressing the plight of the citizenry caused by poor governance!

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The Gambia is one of the smallest and the poorest nations in the world. In the same vein, Gambian people are intolerant and vindictive toward one another. There is no social cohesion covertly and overtly and even worse in family circles. This adds to social ills.

The National Assembly is a “ Bantaba” club for opportunists morons. Members are riding luxury vehicles to the detriment of their poor constituents; suburban & rural dispensaries are without emergency health vehicles. Members debate inordinate FGM bills while women are dying in maternity wards at alarming rates. Public schools are failing, and the efficacy of education is rendered unacceptable and far below the lowest international standards. Electricity supply is atrocious and vehicular traffic a nightmare; emission standards and air quality are hazardous and prone to cardiovascular disease of epidemic proportions. Republican institutions are very weak literally and figuratively. The daily live quest in all aspects of life in this country festers.

Politicians and public figures gathered recently at State House for an exercise in futility in the form of “National Dialogue“, ignoring covenants that are already in the books. There is no political will or courage to implement budget-bursting commissions’ reports of the Janneh Commission, TRRC and Constitutional Review Commission. These were theorized to make the system better and chart a new course for the country. Again, it would have been magnanimous and patriotic for the opposition to argue before the justices of the Supreme Court, the failure of the administration to implement the above commissions’ report.

Senegal has its share of economic and social problems as evident in the political shakeup in that locale the past few days. However, Dakar is Gambian people’s Paris, London and Washington, if you like, for needs of healthcare, international port for travel, transit-trade and services that could otherwise be provided for by the home state. Three decades ago, when I was an economist at the Ministry of Trade, Gambia was a hub for regional transit trade and that’s not the case anymore. It’s very sad and unfortunate.

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All in all, the Gambian experience, if it hadn’t been for remittances and support of the Diaspora, and to a degree, multilateral assistance, the country would have collapsed and been labelled a failed state.

We must go back to the drawing board and plan to rescue generations yet unborn.

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