The EU’s €75 Million Euros (D3.45 Billion Dalasis) Aid to Gambia’s new government cannot be more timely to give the Barrow coalition government the footing it needs to build a strong foundation to begin work in earnest. In addition, EU pledged another €150 Million Euros equivalent to D6.9 Billion Dalasis totalling D10.35 Billion Dalasis is an incredible boost of economic support for a government expected to operate on a leaner and more fiscally responsible manner.
The EU’s timely gesture is expected to be just the beginning of a huge economic package from International partners to support the New Government in Gambia. The US and other International traditional partners are expected to follow and provide economic and technical aid package to Barrow. This will be a huge moral booster especially after 22 years of gross economic mismanagement, looting of public resources and fiscal irresponsibility. Yahya Jammeh and his regime ran down the Gambian economy and diverted public funds and international aid money into his personal enrichment. He literally changed public corporations as his own personal money making machine by demanding funding of personal projects and investments anytime he wanted to without resistance.
With the dawn of the new coalition government Gambians expect more government accountability, transparency and focus on investing in the productive sector of the economy. This will promote employment opportunities for youths and enable local parastatals – government affiliated corporations design to operate independent of government but directly or indirectly supports the government in its economic development agendas. These corporations in the Gambia have historically done extremely well and have pretty much supported the Jammeh government when he isolated the Gambia from the international community. For the past decade corporations like the Gambia Revenue Authority; the Gambia Ports Authority, the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Gambia Telecommunications (GAMTEL), the Social Security, Housing and Finance Administration and others literally sustained the economy and were Yahya Jammeh’s life line. Reviving these agencies and allowing them to operate truly as semi-private corporations to regain their economic independence while the government leans towards temporary aid might be a good economic strategy to begin with.
However, the new government must be super conscious about using the massive economic aid that is about to be flooded into the economy. It is likely that billions of dollars will be offered to the new regime either in the form of grants or loans. A responsible government must be prepared to handle these massive flood of cash into the economy. History has it that aid to Africa have largely turned to be a disaster and curse rather than a blessing for the ordinary citizens. This is largely because governments don’t have strong independent institutions to help invest those resources into long term productive sectors of the economy. There are often no proper audits of government accounts and as a result money allocated to particular projects are squandered into oblivion by petty project managers who sees government as a way to enrich themselves.
The new Barrow administration consisting of a coalition of opposition parties must guard against wasteful spending of government resources. A strong independent national assembly; Auditor General’s office, vibrant media and independent judiciary must serve as checks and balances on the government to find out what is entailed in these aid packages. These institutions if led by experienced independent citizens must demand regular audit of all government accounts to ensure that projects are delivered to their designed scopes and goals. The role of the fourth estate – the independent media must be to hold ministers, heads of corporations and projects to account to every dime that has been allocated to every ministry. The Auditor General’s Office must live up to it’s obligations and independently audit government departments regularly as stipulated by the Gambian constitution. These audit reports must be presented to the national assembly and any semblance of mismanagement must be exposed and leaders held accountable. Every citizen serving in any positions close to management of such resources must be an activist and ready to expose any form of corruption. This obviously means citizens must be honest themselves and make sure that resources designed to benefit the general public are properly delivered.
The New Gambia must focus on strengthening democratic and governance institutions in the next three years. Without strong independent democratic institutions that can hold the government accountable to its powers, the Gambia will slide right back into the status quo of mediocrity and the ordinary citizens will continue to be apathy of government. Development of public services must also be a priority to immediately boost the standard of living of the Gambian people. Some of the most important among these areas needing immediate attention are the stabilization of power and electricity supply; the building of roads, bridges and public schools. Without stabilizing power supply and the energy sector, manufacturing of goods and growth of small businesses will continue to dampen economic growth in the country. Infrastructure development must be at the top of the agenda for any serious government that wants to enhance economic growth through delivery of goods and services.
The Barrow government and must responsibly allocate resources accordingly and hold government officials accountable to these resources. Those days when petty project managers become millionaires with their meager salaries must a thing of the past. Those who want to get rich quick must aim for the private sector and not public services. To become a public servant is to have the patriotism to deliver services to citizens without expecting to live beyond your means. In both the PPP and the Jammeh governments, citizens went into the public sector to become rich and live lavish life styles. That trend and mentality must change starting with President Barrow and his ministers by leading with examples and setting the tone of their administration. It must be understood that we are living in a different era and Gambians are going to hold the administration accountable to these millions of dollars being donated to the government. What the Jammeh and obviously the PPP government got away with mismanaging public funds must be a thing of the past. It is only through citizen engagement, vibrant independent media and independent judicial system that these goals can be achieved. This medium will commit itself to continuing to ask relevant questions and holding public officials accountable to every dime that is allocated to their departments. We expect every media house and citizens in general to commit to this national endeavor…