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OPINION: Open Letter to President Barrow

Feb 27, 2017, 11:37 AM

Dear President Barrow

As a diaspora Gambian and an accounting professor, it is incumbent on me to engage you about the direction of the Gambia. 

As we enter a new page in the Gambia’s political history, open engagement and dialogue should be encouraged.  While I have no doubt about your sincerity, I am deeply troubled with your ambitious plans in fulling many long-term strategic initiatives within the 33 remaining months of your mandate. 

Your recent interview with The Point Newspaper in building “world-class prisons” should be weighed in its entirety.  Mr. President, where is the money coming from?  As revealed by your finance minister, the government’s bank account at the Central Bank is depleted. To put it bluntly, Mr. President, the Gambia government is virtually bankrupt.  The country’s accounting equation is: Total Assets < Total Liabilities + Total Equity

In addition, to building “world-class prisons,” how would you be able to accomplish the following ambitious projects within the 33 remaining months of your mandate?

1. Build a high- rise or an open bridge between Yelli tenda and Bamba tenda.  Please don’t build a closed-bridge because it will destroy river navigation

2. Build batches around the City of Banjul to minimize tides from overtaking the capital city

3. Build the city streets in Banjul to resemble pre-independence days

4. Complete construction of the University of The Gambia and move the entire university  instructions, faculty, staff, and students to Faraba Banta

5. Complete the Laminkoto Passamance road

4. Construct and maintain the northern Gambian roads from Barra to Farafeni

5. Construct and maintain the roads in the Kanifing Administrative District

6. Construct and maintain the secondary roads in Western, North Bank, Lower River, Janjanbureh, and Upper River Divisions

7. Construct and maintain the southern Gambia roads from Banjul to Fatoto

8. Continue with the dictator’s initiative of free basic and secondary education

9. Equip the hospitals with modern technology and equipment

10. Improve quality education in the country

11. Increase administrative, staff and faculty salaries at the University of The Gambia

12. Increase civil service wages

13. Increase teacher salaries

14. Pay for the military and the police

15. Pay for the over-expansion of ministerial portfolios

16. Protect the boarders and the seas.

Realistically, Mr. President, your administration should try to borrow a page from President Kenyatta by curtailing external loans to finance the Gambia’s appropriated budgets.  After President Kenyatta refused to take external loans and sought direct investment, the Kenya Shilling appreciated, commodity prices decreased, the country’s GDP increased, and the confidence of the Kenyan people sharply increased.

Just a few weeks ago, the Peugeot Company announced that it would assemble some of their cars in Kenya. Guess what? These cars will be sold in Continental Africa, and you will soon see one in The Gambia.

The ambitious long-term development initiatives that your administration has envisioned would mortgage the future of The Gambia because the financing alternatives are conceived through external loans and not internal modules.  The after- effect of your desire to seek external loans would do the following to the Gambia’s economy:

1. Decrease direct investment

2. Decrease the country’s GDP

3. Further depreciate the Gambian Dalasi

4. Increase commodity prices

5. Increase the country’s debt portfolio

6. Realize and recognize the highest budget deficit in the history of The Gambia

Mr. President when a new administration takes charge, it usually assesses the internal controls and conclude with certainty how to implement policies that may affect stakeholders for generations to come. In that context, I hereby appeal to your administration to consider the following:

1. Allow extension workers at the ministry of Agriculture to brainstorm constituents about gardening 2. Close the Mile 2 prison and move the prisoners to one of the military camps

3. Declare The Gambia as a bankrupt nation

4. Dialogue with the House of Representatives to repeal the 1997 constitution

5. Encourage direct investment instead of external borrowing

6. Engage open dialogue with the Gambian people about human development instead of total reliance on external donors

7. Reduce the size of the government

8. Reduce the size of the military

9. Request loan forgiveness from the country’s external creditors

10. Reduce mining of sand from local communities to prevent soil erosion and flooding

While I remain a loyal servant and a supportive member of the coalition, I will not hesitate to engage your administration in an open dialogue on the need for a smaller government and a sound fiscal policy. 

Very Respectfully,

Dr. Lamine Jassey Conteh