Jun 16, 2014, 11:21 AM
The leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) Hamat Bah has opined that the Gambia dalasi is currently under extreme pressure, leaving the availability of foreign exchange in the country seriously affected.
Bah, who spoke in an interview with The Point on Tuesday, said this is due to last year’s poor tourist season and the low rate of export of goods and services outside the country.
“This no doubt affects the dalasi because if there is not much from our tourism, and if there is not much from what we export from the country, both goods and services, then the generation of the foreign exchange to support the dalasi becomes a problem,” Bah stated.
Noting that government is fond of accusing the business people of being insensitive to the plight of Gambians, Bah said what most Gambians fail to understand is that the business community imports and looks for foreign exchange, the rate of acquisition of which, he added, is normally high.
“After buying these goods, pay all the dues, customs, transportation, taxes and the cost of bringing it to your store, they still want you to sell your goods at the original price, when at that point in time, the foreign exchange is high, and that is not possible.
“If businessmen have to go and look for their own foreign exchange, buy it at high prices; obviously when they bring in goods the prices cannot be the same as it was before,” he stated.
The problem, he went on, is not the business community, but “it is about the government not making the foreign exchange available to the business community to go import goods in order for them to have their prices to be within our reach.”
While calling on the government through the central bank to intervene, and make the foreign exchange available and affordable in the market to enable the businessmen import goods, the NRP leader said it is easy to blame the businessmen, who are not in a position to respond.
“The fact of the matter is that the money businessmen use to buy their goods is expensive, and government is not making it available for them,” he opined.
However, the NRP leader did not rule out the presence of those he called unscrupulous businessmen.
“Of course, there may be some unscrupulous businessmen, but you cannot generalize that because there are genuine businessmen who have a genuine concern for the Gambian people, and are genuinely contributing to the economy and participating in national development,” he noted.
“There may be a few odd ones, but the general order is that our businessmen are facing serious constraints, which the government should come in and try to help in order to see how best we can resolve this issue,” he added.
Plight of Gambian farmers
Bah, who said he recently ended a discrete countrywide tour, said he was impressed with what is going on, particularly in terms of the cropping season and the agricultural sector.
“There are great hopes for those farmers who were able to get fertilizers from the neighbouring countries, and I hope they will make a difference this time around,” he stated.
According to him, one positive thing he observed is the availability of tractors to farmers. “I have realized that farmers have definitely made best use of the tractors this time around, and I believe the tractors have made a great difference,” Hamat Bah told The Point.
Commenting on the plight of Gambian youths, Bah opined that most of the youths are being used as propaganda tools.
“The government does not have any concrete programme that would generate employment to keep the youths on the ground.
“If government is seriously committed to helping the people of this country, particularly the youths, then it should invest in the River Gambia by irrigating the entire land of the country, but unfortunately this is not being done,” he stated.