By Awa B. Bah
Majority of deputies at the National Assembly (NA), on Thursday 15th March 2018, voted to reject the Framework agreement between the Government of the Gambia and the People’s Republic of China, on the provision of a concessional loan by China, to the Gambia.
The Bill was tabled by the Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Amadou Sanneh, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ousainou Darboe.
Mr. Sanneh in tabling the motion to be considered and adopted by deputies, said the concessional loan from the government of the People’s Republic of China to that of the Gambia, will strengthen and develop the already existing economic and technical cooperation between the two countries; that the two countries agreed to conclude a framework agreement which provides the granting of a concessional loan by the Export-Import Bank of the People’s Republic of China, to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs of the Gambia; that the loan will be utilized for the implementation of the Gambia National Broadband Network project. Mr. Sanneh said the terms of the loan include a maturity period not exceeding two years, including a seven payment period and an annual interest of two percent.
Reacting to the motion, the member for Serrekunda Halifa Sallah, said the sum of money in the Framework agreement should be put in dalasi or dollar denomination because many people cannot conceptualize or know the sum involved; that the Minister should update them on the amount; that the Gambia was simply given a framework to adopt which, according to him, indicates a time frame and payment period of twenty years, at two percent interest.
Halifa said the loan on the real agreement, is the problem; that Article 5 of the loan says that China and The Gambia review the utilization of the loan at any time on any issue which may arise in the cause of its implementation. This, according to Halifa, refers to a loan when they have not looked at the loan and are still questioning if it could proceed; that it is like Gambia is agreeing to something that Gambians do not know; that this is like putting the cart before the horse and called for its consideration rather than looking for a framework agreement.
Other members including the member for Basse, Busumbala, Banjul South, Banjul North, and Upper Saloum contributed to the rejection of the Bill.
Reacting to the rejection of deputies, the Minister of Finance said deputies are not aware of the consequences of rejecting the Framework agreement and what it implies for the country; that the Gambia entered into this agreement in order to uplift the ITC sector round the whole country, to improve the speeds of the networks; that this is what all developing countries are doing; that deputies who rejected the Bill, do not see the Gambia’s telecommunication sector developing and will answer for their own consequences.
The house was put to vote and finally the Framework agreement between the government of the Gambia and China on the provision of a concessional loan, was rejected by the majority.