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OPINION: Some Peace of Advice for President Barrow

Feb 3, 2017, 10:04 AM

My Fellow Comrades,

Congratulations to the 10 appointed ministers and let us all wish them well in granting their functional and administrative responsibilities.  Let us also hope that they would dispense these responsibilities with the true spirit of democracy and the constitutional mandates of the Republic of The Gambia. 

A new government that takes over after a dictatorship has a higher mountain to climb.  Some of us will continue to vet the Barrow Administration without fear because we don’t believe in giving any government a blanket check.  When we criticized and fought against the jammeh dictatorship, we were called the true gallants of democracy.  So we also are obligated to use the same objective vetting against the new democratic government of The Gambia. 

At this juncture, I have serious concerns and reservations about the size of the government that the Barrow Administration is envisioning.  The 17 ministerial portfolios will be too cumbersome and wasteful, especially when the country’s coffers were totally emptied by dictator Yahya Jammeh.   

Realistically, the fisheries and forestry ministry should have merged with the ministry of agriculture.  Since independence, at least 75% of the annual budget of The Gambia was financed through external loans and grants.  Consequently, for over 50 years, the Gambia’s internal budgetary financing realized only about 25% of the entire appropriations and expenditures 

In fact, annual budgetary deficits were financed through external loans, and most of these loans are still outstanding and unpaid for.  Truthfully, the Barrow Administration should assemble a budgetary discipline approach; namely zero budgeting where the establishment of every ministry is objectively questionable and debatable. 

Thus, I hope the Barrow Administration would take a conservative approach for a smaller government than the apparent expanded system that is likely to result in recurring budget deficits during its mandate period of three years. 

In assessing a government’s performance, it is imperative to analyze whether the government has the ability to consistently deliver what it had promised.  With the exit of dictator Jammeh and the fact that there are depleted revenues and grants, the Barrow Administration should take a more conservative approach in tackling both fiscal and social policies.  Thus, as a primary means of yielding its promises to the citizenry, the Barrow Administration should consume a maximum of 12 ministries, and seriously shrink SIS and the military so that needed funds are conserved in order to avoid budgetary imbalances.   

A foundation of realizing promises through budgetary processes is to evaluate how resources are estimated, realized, and earmarked for expenditures. In this gloomy situation for The Gambia, the Barrow Administration will have a higher mountain to climb if it does go ahead with the 17 proposed ministerial portfolios. 

In terms of the budget period, I would like to propose for the new government to revert to the fiscal year instead of a calendar year that was used by the dictatorship.  In all fairness, to any incoming administration, a calendar year approach is more likely to cripple allotment and accountability of revenues/grants/loans, and the configuration and dispensation of budgetary expenditures. 

In another area, and until the constitution is amended, voted for by the Gambian people, and signed into law by President Barrow, I argue categorically that the 1997 constitution is the supreme law of The Gambia.  Thus, if it is unconstitutional for Gambians with dual citizenships to be appointed ministers, then it is contrary to the same constitutional requirement to appoint a Vice President whose age violates the same constitutional interpretation. 

Very Respectfully,

Dr Lamine Jassey Conteh