Business as Usual – Opinion

By Momodou Ndow
Most of us have heard President Barrow, on several occasions, say this “investors are knocking on my door and there will be a lot of investment coming to Gambia.” He told BBc’s Umaru Fofana on his trip to Freetown and he said it again in other places and settings too. But I can’t help to ask – why are investors knocking on President Barrow’s door? Do we want to continue to be done at Statehouse just like Goloh did? Do we have a CEO or a President? We also know that President Barrow appointed Musa Drammeh as his Special Adviser on Investment – but what is his investment background?
Is this how President Barrow wants Statehouse to work, with his Ambassadors at large all positioned to go on investment trips? Do Gambians also want their Statehouse to be a business center with wheeler dealers coming in and out?  It is probably safe to say that most of those in the cabinet don’t have administrative experience, and I think some of the operations can be attributed to that. But is this something we are willing to settle for? This is not how democracy works deh! There has to be a separation. Remember Goloh?
We all know what happened when Goloh did the same, and it is now all being exposed by the commission’s hearings – directives flying like rockets to all the different Ministries and parastatals. A president of any country should not be a point of contact for investors. If you want to set up a corporation in California, you do it through the office of the California Secretary of State – not through the governor’s office, let alone the White House.  Presidents are elected to govern by conducting the  policy, actions and affairs of a state.
This is not by any means an accusation against President Barrow, but it does create a fertile ground that would allow corruption to blossom, with unscrupulous people around him taking bribes to give private investors access to the president. Private investors should not have to go see the president, vice president or any minister, to be able to invest in the Gambia. As long as they meet the necessary legal requirements and are willing to compete in a free market economy, they should be allowed to register their companies and compete without bribing anyone. This is the same fertile ground that allowed Goloh and his enablers to dip their fingers in every cookie jar that entered Gambia. Heck, even clueless Ansumana Jammeh was partnering with foreign investors setting up companies Willy nilly. Yup, the corruption ground was that fertile.
Granted, there are local business that needs to be protected by the government to allow them to grow in an effort to create a middle class, but it should be based on policy, not because minister x wants to protect his friend’s business and give him a monopoly. Democracy is more than just letting people speak their mind, it also includes creating proper checks and balances to avoid corruption and abuse of power, directly or indirectly. So far, it is still business as usual!

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