By Alagi Yorro Jallow
I’m always aware of the international community’s experiences with the Gambia and look at the Gambian issues or the reports coming out of the international think tanks linking and seeing Gambia as a typical African basket-case still among “the poorest countries in Africa.” We know the country has a lot to offer, so if the country is sick, then all Gambians feel sick and perhaps President Adama Barrow could fix this situation, provided he listens to the socio-political demands of the people.
The cautionary note by the Bretton Woods Institution that Gambia’s debt burden is hurtling towards untenable levels is not good news to taxpayers. In the wake of the 225 million Euros funding, questions have emerged about the government’s spending, which critics see as overly ambitious. But the Ministry of Finance is certain these debts will be paid. Ideally, taxpayers worries aren’t so much about what President Barrow’s government plans to do with the Eurobond money, but the shortage that official corruption has been leaving in the public purse every day.
Ordinary Gambians know that their money, in hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions, are lining the pockets of individuals who use their influence to defeat the system. That corruption is a painful ritual in our country can’t be overemphasized. Under the tactical alliance government of President Barrow, the war on corruption has not been enthusiastically dealt with because the vice is deeply rooted, and therefore the success has been more elusive.
If you’ve booked your ticket to the Gambia, don’t cancel it. You’ll still love the country and its people, and if you experience the ugly side, then welcome to the Smiling Coast of the Gambia, the “Land of No Problems.”
We have some housekeeping that needs a revolution to combat the cankerworm in the Gambia, which is corruption and racketeering. People, start mobilizing and organizing for long-term changes and the total reconstruction of a national consciousness. Don’t get stuck on who the next president will be.
The police steal from the people, and the people steal from each other. The politicians rob the treasury, and the powerful feed off the inherited wealth stolen from the public. There are no laws like the Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act or The Ethics and Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act in place to combat corruption in Gambia. The president and his government are not interested in fighting corruption and so he’s useless in these matters.
The national debt was $ 1.9 billion as of 2017, and $349 million is owed to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and the African Development Bank, whereas $112 million is owed to other governments and an additional $6 million is owed to private creditors, excluding the Chinese loans.
This year, Gambia ranked 130 out of 180 in the world corruption index. This is a marginal improvement because, in 2016, Gambia was 145 out of 180 countries. More needs to be done. Every Gambian has a responsibility to fight graft. However, without the political will, all anti-graft efforts will get lost in the political din. Gambians can recall the political heat that resulted after a list of corruption suspects were reported daily on the press as well on social media. Corrupted networks fought back, and this news became fodder for unhealthy exchanges.
President Barrow should be resolute in his crusade against graft. Gambians can’t wait to see the day the graft lords are hauled to court in broad daylight. No one should be allowed to enjoy the proceeds of graft without painfully paying for them. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Assembly must fight and disavow the perception that they exist to work at the behest of shadowy forces. The Barrow administration should not be seen as shying from tough retributive measures against graft. By condoning them, we are set up for failure.
Success stories are told globally that combat the cankerworm of corruption through implementation of legal framework such as the Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act and The Ethics and Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. The Gambian people demand and appreciate the recovery of corruptly acquired assets as big deterrents to corruption. Despite numerous challenges, the government of President Barrow has no intention to legislate a new Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act.
Most countries that have enacted such laws have made considerable progress towards attracting local and global attention. Much can be achieved when all Gambians stand up against corruption and guard against the plundering of public resources meant to benefit them and future generations.
Corruption affects people’s daily lives, from poor roads to unequal access to healthcare and medicine, crimes and violence in our communities and across borders, and political choices distorted by money and greed. It is therefore the duty of every Gambian to join the fight against corruption now.
Culled from Alagi Yoro Jallow's page