By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
This is an exclusive interview with National Assembly Member, Hon. Alhagie Mbow, member for Upper Saloum, on the role of the National Assembly in addressing the Corona Virus which has already claimed one life and infected at least three people in The Gambia. The National Assembly has suspended all sittings in the wake of the Corona Virus infection last week, however, many other Parliament’s are using technology to continue sittings. With the country heading towards a State of Emergency, Gambians are desperate for the leadership needed to arrest the Covid 19 Pandemic which has already claimed thousands of lives across the globe.
Yusef Taylor: Do you feel that it is correct for the Finance Minister to cut from Centralised Services to allocate D500 Million to the emergency fund to fight Covid 19?
Hon. Alhagie Mbow: I am not so sure exactly where the cut is going to come from but the lives of the Gambian people is more important at this time and drastic measures should be taken to curtail expenditure. The centralized services have some would-be expenditures that cannot be touched like Rent and Rates, input subsidy for farmers, arbitration and settlement of confirmed debts and subventions to non- financial institutions which is almost 80% of the appropriated amount. However, lines like vehicles, port equipment etc can be cut and the same can also apply to other budget agencies.
YT: What is the role of the National Assembly in combatting the Pandemic?
Hon. AM: There are several roles the parliament can play on this pandemic among them include supporting the health workers especially those that are on the sensitization terrain to spread their messages. Members can also use social media positively to talk to their constituents about the recommendations by the Ministry of Health, Medical Research Council and World Health Organisation especially the dos and don’ts in general. Finally, they must be ready to continue sitting within 24 hours if there is a need especially to approve supplementary appropriation if there is a need.
YT: As lawmakers should the Contingency Fund be enacted to be able to better prepare for any future emergencies?
Hon. AM: Yes, I believe there is a need for a contingency fund legislation. This will help the executive to respond immediately to the needs of the population during disasters as we have seen in the past years and the current pandemic. This fund can help to speed up government respond immediately instead of going through so many bureaucracies.
Below is an exclusive interview with Hon. Alahgie Mbow on the Supplementary Appropriation Bill and the Contingency Fund. This interview was conducted in late 2018 after the National Assembly passed a Supplementary Bill barely two weeks to the end of the year.