Tuesday, March 28

Political interlude seen as major trade challenge 

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As the country continues to suffer from trade setbacks in our ports due to infrastructural backwardness and losing trade for our groundnut market, political will is seen as one core challenge the country faces.

Permanent Secretary Lamin Dampha at the Ministry of Trade, during an interview with this medium to shed light on this allegation, said people might perceive it differently. He, however, confirmed that “the frequency of changes of leadership in the ministry” citing that nine permanent secretaries and four ministers have been appointed at the Trade Ministry in six years.

PS Dampha points out that could be something one can interpret as worrying, saying there is a need to look into that. He added that stability in the ministry is important for the private sector and it sends a positive signal to the business community and potential investors.

Meanwhile, another anonymous source told this medium that the government is not transparent when it comes to things relating to importation and exportation, saying this causes the change of leadership in many public places.

“How do you expect the work to go smoothly when government politicians try to interrupt the work due to their own interests? In fact, if you change a leader in an institution and bring someone who knows nothing about trade, how do you expect that person to deliver,” he quizzed.

The government official continued that the reality is that something is wrong somewhere in the government’s operational system and needs to be fixed if the government wants to see the country moving forward and registering significant progress in the world of trade.

“People might see it differently but this is my view and need to be respected. I want to remain to hide because it might cause problems among my colleagues. We have different views on the political will.”

Our medium has tirelessly involved other government authorities and the private sector whose works are related to trade in order to give their views on matters regarding political will but to no avail.

A source informed us that due to political interlude, The Gambia loses its standing at the United States Trade Representative, after being the 184th largest goods trading partner with $47 million in total (two way) goods trade during 2019. Goods exports totalled $45 million; goods imports totalled $2 million. The U.S. goods trade surplus with The Gambia was $43 million in 2019.

“The top import categories (2-digit HS) in 2019 were: special order (returns) ($1 million), fish and seafood (frozen fish, not fillet) ($182 000), animal or vegetable fats and oils (fish and marine mammal) ($158 000), special other (low-value estimates) ($61 000), and cotton ($22 000),” reported by United States Trade Representative.