“We all know that the Yahya Jammeh government is notorious for deceitfulness, and for the opacity, or total lack of transparency, of its governance practices,” said Bakebba Camara, the Vice President of the Campaign for Democratic Change Gambia (CDCG) who deputized for the CDCG Chairman Mr. Bakary Bunja Dabo.
“But the truth can no longer be hidden behind a mask. Over the past few years, on each occasion of presenting the annual budget, successive Finance Ministers have been forced to groan under the burden of debt servicing as well as to admit to growing concern over the size of the debt stock,” he said.
Mr. Dabo said the Gambia’s 2012 domestic, which represents over 31% of the national Gross Domestic Product, was higher than the 13% the military junta inherited in 1994. He said “domestic debt arises when revenue raised from taxation [direct and indirect] cannot cover public expenditure, and the Government is forced to either overdraw its accounts with the Central Bank or to borrow from the general public by selling various types of loan stocks, [sometimes called gilt-edged stock] e.g. treasury bills.” 0
Dabo said almost all countries at some point experience budget deficits and are forced into domestic indebtedness but a responsible government maintains a careful watch on the trend, and prudently acts to keep matters at manageable levels.
“In the Gambia’s case, the serious deterioration cannot be the result of prudent or competent management of the economy. Instead, the situation came about through incompetence or recklessness or both; there is no other way of putting it truthfully,” he said, adding that the situation “looks even more worrying when we scrutinize the pattern of public expenditure. 0
He said the allocation of 25 of the 2013 budget to expenditure on the President’s Office is three times more than what is allocated to agriculture, the most important sector of the economy that employees 75% of the population. “Similarly, more is allocated to “defence and security” than on basic and secondary education, while the Ministry of the Interior gets as much as the public health services. And the trend continues, with judiciary at the bottom of the heap,” he said. 0
Such a budget allocation, Mr. Dabo continued, reflects that the Jammeh regime’s true priority is not feeding the nation or dispensing sound education to prepare our children for the future or an efficient health delivery system or the well-being of the population in any form. Their true priority is the person of Yahya Jammeh, his security and his regime’s security. That is why we are burdened with a pompous President’s Office, an over-bearing and bungling leviathan, whose function is to pamper the over-bloated ego of a megalomaniac with absurd illusions of grandeur. If this means squandering our poor country’s scarce resources to feed his daily cravings, so be it. In that regard, excesses indulged in include laying on an office unit for the First Lady, operating fleet of presidential aircrafts, maintaining three presidential palaces in Banjul, Kanilai and Georgetown, and crowning the outfit with a post of a whole Minister for Presidential Affairs.” 0
Mr. Dabo painted a gloomy picture of the Gambia’s disturbing external debt, which almost tripled from 1994 to 2011. Ironically, he said, the bulk of the debt came in the form of loans contracted under the most non-transparent indeed questionable of ways notorious for the in-built opportunities they offer for offering and taking kick-backs.
Agreements creating most of such loans never went to Parliament for ratification, as required by law, or if they did were simply rubber-stamped without any serious scrutiny. To add insult to injury, the loan funds secured rarely went to the productive sectors to help the economy grow. Rather, they in the main went to finance dubious political projects such as the GRTS, or non-performing items of equipment such as the Barra ferries or under-equipped infrastructure such as hospitals and classroom blocks etc.” 0
Other speakers at the symposium included James Bahoum, Seedy Ceesay and Pa Nderry M’bai. Bamba Serign Mass moderated the program, which took place in London.