Almost exactly a year ago, Amadou Sanneh, former Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs tabled the budget estimate for fiscal year 2018. It was estimated at D19.74 billion (37.7% of GDP) – The Point newspaper. He would later asked for an additional 3M supplemental budget and gave the reason that new commissions that were not initially budgeted for were set up, if we recall the mandate of the Janneh Commission was also extended.
Amadou Sanneh also tabled the vehicle policy as a means to curb government spending, a policy which was approved by the NA only for the executive to ask for a moratorium. We all know the state of our economy when Amadou Sanneh came in as minister; he was lauded across the board for his efficient handling of the economy which saw country’s economic conveyor belt slow down its breakneck speed into negative terrain and eventually stopping that motion to slowly reversing course into positive terrain and promises of economic growth.
Amadou Sanneh as we know has since June 29th, 2018 been reassigned to the ministry of Trade; and in came Mamburay Njie, Yahya Jammeh’s former Minister of Finance. Barely 6 months in, he has tabled a supplementary budget request for D1,128, 337, 519.77. Yes, you heard that right; over ONE BILLION Dalasis to be spent in under 3 weeks.
When Amadou Sanneh requested for a supplementary budget of 3 million, it was an additional expenditure that no one wanted, especially when various sectors of the economy especially health were in dire straits. But to show his level of commitment to reversing the bad economic trends, he suggested cost cutting measures, the most prominent of which was the vehicle policy that all lauded. In today’s edition of the Standard Newspaper, the current Minister of Finance informed members of the National Assembly that “the vehicle policy implication has an associated cost totaling D324, 260, 799 and the responding saving of the same amount annually…”
You heard that right too, the government would have saved over 3 MILLION Dalasis if the National Assembly approved legislation for the implementation of the vehicle policy was implemented. That alone was enough to offset the supplemental budget. In essence, the government defied the legislation of the NA and shunned the recommendations of the then Finance Minister, the government’s own chief economic policy adviser.
Today, as we speak, every concerned citizen is livid over the proposed supplementary budget but in typical Gambian fashion, everything has to be seen through a political lens even in the face of a national crisis. “This is what the UDP gave us”; that same UDP that gave you Barrow gave you Amadou Sanneh too, so what’s up? If leaders were supposed to assume office and be responsible by default then why do we call for accountability? We know people’s circumstances change, we know their views and influences do not remain the same and that is why we are constantly on them to make sure they stay on track.
Yes, because Barrow came from within the UDP, it is natural that the UDP cut him a longer slack than those not affiliated with the UDP. The government is measured on a point by point basis. Some aspects of governance and the national welfare they do well on; their performance is average on some and in other areas they do very poorly. Nobody gets everything right and nobody gets everything wrong, that’s just the truth of reality. We encourage and celebrate the good and condemn the bad to discourage a repeat of the bad, that’s not hypocrisy. When we should all join hands and voices to condemn the financial indiscipline pervading the country some feel the need to be vindictive; how about we abstain until we set the country on track? We all win at the national level but you win some more by being vindicated, but hold your horses just for a day or two while we all focus on pressuring the NA. When the dust settles, we can count scores.
It’s surprising that the party supporters who are often branded as unpatriotic and only interested in partisan affairs (by virtue of the party they are affiliated with; other partisan individuals are patriots) is showing resolve to not stand by and watch fiscal indiscipline take hold; but like other battles, they have to take the lead in this one too because it was their making; so much for patriotism.
Have you called your National Assembly member to relay your concerns or you don’t need to because he or she is a UDP elected NAM so it is the UDP’s duty to make sure the national Assembly Member does his or her job? Yes UDP has a majority in the National Assembly but their mandate is to serve the country and every member of their constituency regardless of political ideology. We (who share the same party platform with them) are calling them with a double request; telling them that they owe it to country and to party. In essence what we are telling them is that we expect them to perform well, that way the country benefits and the party is presented in good light. Their under performance reflects badly on the party, undermines future party candidates and shortchanges the country and we don’t want any of those. See, we can be partisan and patriotic at the same time!
When the nation calls, let’s rise to the occasion and do so objectively. When the issue is settled, we can go back to our political camps and be satirical, celebrate or score points. But we can hardly do that, every issue has to have a dash of political point scoring added to a bowl of blended chest thumping and a pot mixture of vindictiveness.
Since we are on economic affairs, I will quote a brother (I know he will not mind) who captured our situation excellently;
“Inflation is not always a monetary phenomenon.Besides degree inflation, there’s this inflation that occurs when there’s an oversupply of critics, like it’s happening to this Gambia that’s so, so badly in need of celebrators.So, eventually, there’s gonna be a decline in the value of criticisms, and more than likely the credibility of some critics.” – Omar Touray
If you don’t get that (because word play is child play for him); what he is saying in essence is that a lot of us “cry wolf” too often, so much so that when it really matters and you speak up, your comments get received with “it’s him again; always cynical, never gives the benefit of the doubt.”
We can do better. It’s not always rosy but it’s not a cactus plant either!