Friday, June 9

Good Morning Gambia: Time To Wake Up

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Momodou Sabally, Former Secretary General & Minister Of Presidential Adviser, Economist.

Over a couple of months, I have embarked on a series of whatsap audio message titled “Good Morning Gambia: time to wake up”. In the audio series, recorded in the local Wolof dialect,We have been talking about policy failures on the part of government.

Now it is time to focus on ourselves, “the led”: the governed masses who go to the polls to elect those charged with governance.

How well have we performed so far?

With the advent of our so called new Gambia came many promises and hopes and aspirations.

What has happened to these high ideals and ideas? How far have we gone on the road to economic development, democracy, justice and progress?

A government that campaigned (in 2016)on the promise of electoral reforms, freedom of expression and better living standards based on a new constitution; that same government campaigned against the very foundation of a third republic by throwing away a new constitution worth more than 100 million Dalasis based on nothing but the desire for self-perpetuating rule?

How do we reconcile this fact with the reality of the incumbent (and his usurpation of power) being re-elected to yet another term of office?

What is wrong with us?

A government that promised us better living standards has inflected on us the grave wound of stagflation; with inflation at an all time high of almost 14 percent; coupled with depreciation of the local currency and the death of our main sea port.

They have imposed entry and exit ‘visas’ of $20 dollars (per person) on our own citizens due to the corrupt secuirport deal.

Our youths are disillusioned with high cost of living with unprecedented high rate of unemployment; and government does not know the actual rate of youth unemployment; nor do they have any serious plans for sustainable job creation.

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After receiving more than half a billion Euro worth of aid from the European Union, the Barrow administration has nothing to show for these and many other donor funds; talk less of our own tax money worth more than 100 billion Dalasis paid into state coffers over the past 6 years and more.

This government’s very own Auditor General has slammed them with corruption allegations ranging from the office of the President to the health ministry.

But in an unprecedented lowering of standards, President Barrow himself has ridiculed the professional work of the National Audit Office calling it mere “opinion”.

With more than 66 Gambian children killed by the Acute Kidney Injury disease, due to the incompetence and negligence of our health authorities; coupled with daily reports of preventable maternal mortality cases, President Barrow has only praises for his health Minister and his team. This, even when the auditor general has slammed this same ministry with allegations of financial Impropriety with regards COVID funds in the millions.

With daily deaths of babies due to power failure and dysfunctional incubators at our main paediatric unity; one remembers the lyrics of Bob Marley: “how long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look”.

With shady government deals handed over to close associates of the President, our national treasury continues to bleed while mining concessions remain unregulated causing unprecedented environmental damage especially in the Kombo coastal areas.

We cannot blame God for our woes when we do not take responsible steps to correct our own wrongs.

With this same incompetent government winning a majority in our most recent parliamentary polls; why wouldn’t they be bold enough to increase electrify and water charges by up to 36 percent on the eve of nationwide localGovernment elections?

After blaming the former government for executive directives that allegedly harmed the public interest, this same government is giving executive directives for withdrawing billions from pensioners funds at Social Security to fund shady procurement deals.

The Gambian voter needs to assess our own records and see if we have been taking the right decisions regarding the existence of a government that has now legalized corruption and entrenched banditry in public office.

It is about time for us to wake up; for Bob Marley is right:

“Rise from your sleepless slumber! Yes, yeah! Yes, yeah!We’re more than sand on the seashoreWe’re more than numbersAll together nowWake up and live now, y’all!”

The Bible teaches us that “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” But this government belies that by constantly asking for more from the very masses that brought them to power. Tax rates are going up, inflation is skyrocketing, unemployment is still on the rise and everyday Barrow and his ministers keep asking for more by fair and foul means. From shady land deals to scandalous per diem heists, this government gives back nothing but always asks for more.

The fact is that God will not come down to solve our problems . He requires us to take our initiatives to correct our own wrongs. With local government elections around the corner, my mind goes to the Quranic injunction : “Indeed, Allāh will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”

Shall we take our cue and act with wisdom for a better nation? Our children will assess our performance one day soon.

God bless The Gambia.

Momodou SaballyFormer Presidential Affairs Minister, economist

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