GAMBIA: ON LOANS, DEBTS, PUBLIC ENTERPRISES & GOVERNANCE HALIFA SALLAH’S CONTRIBUTION AT THE ADJOURNMENT DEBATE

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Halifa Sallah National Assembly Member for Serekunda Constituency

Honourable Speaker, we have finally gathered here to give solemn expression to the constitutional provision which asserts that sovereignty resides in the people. And, when governments derive their authority from the people, they must utilise it only, to promote their general welfare and prosperity.

We are here to promote the general welfare and the prosperity of The Gambian people and that’s the spirit we should direct every word and action in this National Assembly.

This is a transitional government, inherited an order with the mandate to build another order. A new Gambia that the President said the people want and deserved.
Conscience must guide us, truth must guide us, good faith must guide us and the national interest must guide us.

It is important to bear in mind that unless you understand the challenges of a country, you cannot actually provide the policies, the plans, the programs, the projects to address them.
Right here, we’ve been given an emergency development policy funding showing that we are in an emergency situation. And, what we were told is that public enterprises that should provide dividends to government non-taxable revenue like NAWEC owes nine billion. They are in crisis and we are told that part of the money been taken as loan would have to be utilise to try to change those institutions and make them viable.

And, I heard the Minister when questioned by one of the members, would you privatise or invite private investment into this public enterprise? He (Minister) said not now, because they are not viable. But we must take tax payers money to make them viable. And, then do what? Afterwards privatise them, so that the people will continue to pay the loans and others will benefit. Is that the direction?
If that’s the direction, then that is not the direction that I stand for and if they’ve failures, is not my failure. It’s the failure of those who have failed to learn from history. 1988/89 we know what happened here GPMB was collapsing, first 83 million, 30.7 million injected into GPMB, by 1992 prospectors to privatise it to 20 million dalasis CCDB because of the bad debt of 72 million put in 1987/89 126 million.

How did it end up? AMRC. When they check over it was 110 million bad debts, only 20 million could be recovered and Meridian Bank took the 20 million and the rest to AMRC.
Is that where we are moving? Because the Minister told me here right on my face that the ERP was successful, were GPMB could only purchase 2200 of groundnuts in 1991. And, some members here are saying a ‘successful agricultural programme, when in 1994 the cooperative union collapsed owing millions from Gambia Commercial Development Bank. And, they had to establish the Macaulay Commission, commission of enquiry and the coup d’état came.

Is that were we are heading to? So, it is important for us to know that this is not the time to romanticize; it is a time to be calculative. We need to find out how are we going to ensure that food sufficiency is guarantee, to remove the farmers from poverty.
What I hear people saying ‘well why don’t we get investors to take over the land? Where will people work when they’re removed from the land? Is that the development policy that will save our people from poverty?

What we are saying is that their family farms require fertiliser, seed, farming implements so that they produce and remove themselves from poverty. If that fails to happen, if you fail, that is not my failure, because that’s not my direction. My direction is to create a cooperative bank that will help those farmers, family farms to own their land, not to become like the Kafuta one, working for somebody else from the cattle to the giraffe.

I see those women who come to my street, coming from the Kombos every single day at 05:00 am in the morning and then go back by 02:00pm selling on the ground their vegetables with prizes, which cannot be bought. How do you save those women? By empowering them, by creating the market opportunity so that they will not have to come to that street and disrupt the traffic. They are not the problem; we have not been providing solutions for them such as a marketing strategy, where you go to their farms and buy their produces, process them or market them that are the challenges.

We do not have the solutions yet, I said here there’s no development blue-print. And, the majority leader copiously quoting from a national development plan the very president of the republic said it is yet to come to fruition, maybe this coming month before the end or two weeks after that. There is still need for a national development plan encompassing all the sectors, indicating the direction of the government so that ultimately, you have the strategic plans of the ministries, which becomes more concrete to the programmes and projects, which are time bound to be able to address the aspirations of the youths. That’s how a government works and it should be a consultative exercise, which ever consultant prepare all this, should call all of us, we validate it, have an input to. It should have started six months ago, but now that it had not this is the time to move on and to move on with sincerity and modesty.

ON GOVERNMENT PAYSCALE
Honourable Speaker, it is very clear, if we look at the grades, one less than 1000, two to four less than 2000, 5 to 6 less than 3000 a month, 7 to 9 less than 5000 a month, the highest grades are between 5000 and 8000 a month, that is the salary scale of the country and when the president spoke to us they talking about staff audit. And, from the staff audit, maybe they will have to increase salaries. The very people who will be pushed out are Gambians who need to survive. What are you going to do? Package them and throw them into the Ocean? Whose responsibility it is to provide for every Gambian? That’s not the way to think.

There’s no excess baggage. Anywhere, government`s responsibility is to provide for everyone. And, if the trend continues, the trends I see, then we are yet to talk about moving towards a New Gambia, which is inclusive, the New Gambia cannot isolate anyone, and the New Gambia must be inclusive.

It must provide for everyone and we have seen the industrial sector contributes just 13% to GDP and that is the basis of employment. What are we going to do with the GGC? What is its capacity? Who told us what is it producing? How much oil? If we imports over 600,000,000 million worth of oil, if GGC can produce that, we are putting 600,000,000 in to our national economy.

If we produce 200,000 tons of rice, we are putting into our economy 1.9 billion. So, we need to see all these sectors, where we importing and look at the distortion in terms of import-export. We have come to a point where in terms of import in 2014 the deposit was 11.7 billion, and 2015, 12 billion. How do we deal with the deposit? We must enhance production that is what a plan is all about. That’s what we need to think about, what we do to expand import substitution so that we provide for ourselves that is the task.

ICT, we are told that in all the five regions, there are seven centres that were meant to connect schools and connect communities to ICT programmes. Have we been told anything about that? Nothing. And, people claim that there’s a development plan. Where is it? not yet, that’s why we are saying it is not yet, because you need to plan for that.

In 201, there was an agreement between company’s and government so that in terms of the landing, there will be co-operation. We need to look at each sector, the Minister told us that as far as airplanes are concerned, 471 million will be earn from selling them.

Why can we not have a national courier? If we want to go to Senegal, sometimes how many days on road? We are told four airplanes what are we going to do with them? Sell them? At least that seems to be the intention, 471 million. Why can’t we, if they are viable transform them into national careers? If not sell, them and buy what can provide national courier servicer. So essentially, what I am saying Honourable Speaker is we must start to settle down and know that we have a long way ahead.

We are just scrolling, we need to stand and then walk for money and yes many things I could have said but essentially, I don’t have the time, but I want everyone to reflect on what is happening in Venezuela right now, what has happened in Libya, what is happening in South Sudan.

It is not military might that create security in a country, is not what create peace in a country and many of you are praising rightly the President of Senegal, but let me tell you that it was a team work headed by the President of Liberia, President sir-leaf.

Without her, we will not have the peace we have today. Let me tell you that ECOMIG forces can threaten, but if ECOMIG forces brought down their weapons and aeroplanes storming the State House and Kanilai, do you know how many weapons were deposited in those places? Your army would have disintegrated, your security forces would have disintegrated, the whole society disintegrated. Who will control what, so let us all move to One Gambia, One Nation, One People that is our destiny, that’s our liberation.

Source (Kexx Sanneh)


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