Hon. Suwaibou Touray, the Wuli East Member of Parliament in his contribution to the debate on the Revised Estimates for the 2017 Fiscal year said he quite agreed with the rationale behind the Revision. He quoted what the Minister of Finance said in his speech as follows: “This new administration intends to prioritize macroeconomic stability with emphasis on addressing the burgeoning debt situation by instilling fiscal discipline, and as a result, this revised budget has a total financing gap of D955 million compared to the D4.7 billion budget that was previously approved in December 2016”.
Hon. Touray said his problem is precisely ‘our attitude’ towards what he called ‘systemic aid’ which has the tendency to keep us on a ‘regular fix’ on an annual basis. Touray argued that we must look for ways and means to curtail this trend if we are to make any headway in our strife to sustained progress.
Touray also argued that systemic aid has not brought development to any country because it just mire you and maintains you in the debt trap which you find difficult to escape. He said millions and millions of dollars were given to African countries over the years through aid and grants and even charity but that has not made any meaningful development impact on the lives of the people.
Hon. Touray however applauded the minister and his team’s innovation regarding the reduction in Domestic debt repayment in the budget. He quoted what the Finance minister said” “all outstanding CBG lending to the budget through various facilities was consolidated into a 30-year bond at an interest rate of 5 percent at end-2016, with projected interest savings of D330 million per annum”.
Touray said this is an innovation he would want the minister to elaborate on because it is indeed an innovation worth studying and he believes the Gambia should begin to issue what he called Domestic bonds to solve some of its acute internal development challenges.
Hon. Touray added that issuing domestic bonds is easier because The Gambia would do the repayment in dalasi and not in foreign currency. He said many countries in Africa are now looking into domestic bonds rather than doing everything with external donors. He also said Gambia can look into issuing its debt in external bonds where feasible.
Touray went on to say that the country should be able to put aside modest amounts for development purpose, say from D50-100 million dalasis annually to provide essential services such as building boreholes rather than taking loans to do such things. This, he said, will go a long way in our ability to finance our growth and will in turn reduce our dependence on external loans.
The Wuli East NAM asserted that the Government must become more transparent and introduce anti-corruption measures because corruption has a lot to do with this because the loans come in as solid cash which is fluid and is prone to abuse. He said we must strengthen our guard against corruption to make sure the funds are used for what they are intended for.
Touray said he had an interview with a former minister on the appreciation of the Dalasi against other major currencies at a time when groundnut production was low, tourist arrivals low and so on. He said the minister said he would answer the question but they must turn the discussion into a chat which they did. He said the minister told him that there was money laundering going on; that certain times some people would transfer a lot of cash into our banking system just for a short period only to transfer it to other countries; that during that period, the dalasi would appreciate against other international currencies. Touray said this would appear as if it was helping our economy but it was not. So he said the anti-corruption committee of the National Assembly should be empowered to be able to monitor such corruption issues with a view to reducing the menace.
On Inflation, the Wuli East member quoted the minister as saying that “if the Dalasi further depreciates against the four major trading currencies, inflation may rise to double digits in 2018”.
Touray said he has looked at the inflation figures even though he does not usually agree with them but he thinks he would accept them this time around and continue to monitor the situation. He however said if we are to control inflation, we must at all cost invest in the productive base of the economy. For example, he said villagers in Wuli have initiated the production of rice entirely on their own. They now have an irrigation machine and have produced substantial amount of rice, he added. He said if they are given little help to expand and improve production and have easy access to their rice fields, they could easily eradicate hunger and reduce their dependency on imported rice. The more we do this, he said, the more we reduce inflation.
Hon. Touray cited the Agriculture Value Change (AVC) Project which he said is laudable but said the counterpart fund of 10% percent meant to be paid by the recipients is driving many small communities away from the idea. He also said the process of going to banks and taking loans of 45% of the project cost is also cumbersome for some associations, but these are the areas that actually impact on the lives of the people. He also cited FASDEP which helps farmers to engage in poultry and ruminant production and added that this has impact on the ground.
Hon. Touray said he is happy that we could yield about D566 million from sand and heavy metal mining and went on to encourage the government to look into the mining done at Badari in the Tumana District. He said he actually went there and discovered that no one was allowed to see the place at the time. He said the former regime used to give a bull to the villagers as some form of royalty which must be consumed by them but argued that such a thing does not help the development of the community in anyway. He said sand mining is also being done in Sanyang and the problem in Kartong was caused by the lack of compensating the community in anyway which he said must be avoided. “if you do mining and destroy the environment of the community and not pay any royalty to them you are actually doing a lot of damage in many ways”, says Hon. Touray.
On salaries, the Wuli East NAM said he is not advocating for salary increment for NAMs and senior civil servants but he is very much perturbed by the low income of government drivers, watch men, cleaners and so on who are receiving less than one thousand dalasi. He said many of these workers travel from Kombo to work in Banjul. He asked how such workers could feed their families. He finally asked if they could look in between the lines and do something for these low income earners.