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OPINION: Consumer protection: People Concern

Apr 8, 2020, 3:57 PM | Article By: D.M. Badjie

The exploitation of Gambian consumers has been going on for many years without any solutions by either the government or lead agencies in the private sector. The business houses both public and the private sector continue to mock the sweat of consumers at free will whether in times of peace or in times of hardship.

Consumers are facing internet and data exploitations, poor networks, inflated water bills, exorbitant charges for rents in respect of office space, shops and other business premises, excessive transport fares, high school fees in private schools, high bills in private clinics and hospitals, skyrocketing prices in food commodities, expensive prices of fish, high cost of vehicle maintenance due mainly to poor urban road networks, inclusive packages in the tourist industry harming the survival of the local participants in the industry, high airfares between The Gambia and Senegal and elsewhere, and so forth. The Gambian environment has become hostile to consumers. It is unbelievable that even in these emergency times, certain shopkeepers are raising their prices to maximize profits.

There existed before laws regarding price controls, rent control and other regulations governing the business and investment environment. This brings me to the question of ENFORCEMENT. Why should this be assigned to the Presidency if it is not due to the carelessness of government agencies and private sector led organizations in protecting the welfare of Gambians especially in times of hardship. Those government agencies and private sector led organizations must live up to expectations in the discharge of their mandate. They cannot be a source in aggravating the poverty in the country. It is time the Presidency holds accountable sectors that are not performing to inject seriousness in the system of government. In an African environment, sometimes benevolent dictatorship is better than civilian procrastination in the system of government. That is a way of sometimes making development proceed accordingly.

Unlike in the West, many governments in Africa, once elected into office, they do not stand firm in the welfare of their citizens. The vast majority of the people would normally suffer from hardship in Africa before government action to redress their plight. Self-enrichment is always at the core of the politics of nation states in most of Africa.

The issues discussed above are relevant to reflect on as these will become subjects of debates in the 2021 race to the State House. Politicians must be warned therefore, that Gambians have graduated from the school of ignorance in politics in 2016. There is a new wave of generational consciousness that cannot be swayed into voting for the wrong party and leader.

To put an end to consumer exploitations, and for poverty reduction, Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade should encourage domestic production and consumption of all essential food commodities for self-sufficiency. In the same vein, Government should adopt a deliberate policy of banning the importation of food commodities that can be produced in the country. A plan to set up GAMBIA RICE GROWERS ASSOCIATION, ONION GROWERS ASSOCIATION, and other diversified food production associations with inputs and marketing assistance from the Government, would reduce poverty and our dependence on importers who are all out to exploit the consumers. In addition, new anti-consumer exploitation laws should be enacted by Parliament. When the interest of the people is at the heart of the Government, the prosperity of the people is assured.

Finally, policing and enforcement in a democratic dispensation could be difficult at times in a system of government. However, democratic responsibility also calls for decisive leadership. In the absence of this, the people tend to disregard law and order and take advantage of a weak system of government. There is evidence of dwindling respect for authority in The Gambia. This cannot continue if we are to avoid our hopes for development and proud New Gambia hanging in the balance like leaves of a tree that could be blown away right under our watch.