Dec 17, 2013, 10:15 AM
“I have called this gathering to deliver a message against the backdrop” of President Yahya Jammeh’s “Koriteh message when he called for honesty among Gambians, especially among traders, who are in the habit of hiking prices of basic commodities whenever national feasts approach,” Trade minister Abdoulie Jobe told the businesspeople assembled at the ministry’s conference room on Monday.
In a letter sent to media houses, the Trade ministry announced that it “has invited major importers and retailers of essential commodities in The Gambia for a meeting with the Minister regarding the importation and sale of basic commodities.
“The objective of the meeting is to discuss how these basic commodities can be available to the Gambian populace, and at affordable prices.”
Mr Jobe speaking at the meeting said the business community should refrain from using trade liberalization and foreign exchange as pretext to increase prices unreasonably in the country, which is making life difficult for the people, especially the ordinary Gambians.
Price determination by market forces should not make businesspeople take advantage of every situation, such as Ramadan, Koriteh, Tobaski, Christmas and festive occasions generally, “to unjustifiably hike prices of basic commodities and services, and make life difficult for the people whose welfare President Jammeh is also seeking”, he added.
The Trade minister cited the price increase for a bag of onion from D600 to D1,100 just before the Ramadan, “which should not be condoned”.
He went on: “His Excellency also called on all and sundry to desist from ungodly acts by being moderate and reasonable in pricing our goods and services at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and other festive occasions.
“The time has now come for the business sector to positively respond to His Excellency’s call and contribute to his drive to uplift the welfare of the Gambian people.
“As the minister of Trade, it is my duty and responsibility to take this message and run with it for the purpose of addressing such grave concern using whatever authority is vested in the Ministry.”
Minister Jobe said the government has always noted the contribution the private sector could make in the development of the country.
“The role of the private sector’s participation in national development is pronounced in Vision 2020, PAGE and all other plans and strategies. Nobody should have any iota of doubt of Government commitment to working with the private sector”, he continued.
The government, he further stated, has done everything “humanly possible” to create an environment conducive for the private sector to prosper.
“I can authoritatively say that no country has done more than The Gambia in terms of providing opportunities for the private sector,” he asserted.
Mr. Jobe said businesspeople and economic operators in the country should take “corrective measures regarding unjustifiable price hikes and profiteering”.
“The ministry is calling on the business sector to adopt His Excellency’s call for moderate and reasonable pricing of basic food commodities.
“I urge you to go with this message, think about it and take necessary action. We will monitor progress, analyse and then engage you whenever it is necessary.
“The ministry has a wide open-door policy ever ready to consult with the business sector. But the business sector should now know that the conducive environment created by government is inclusive of the welfare of the Gambian people,” he declared.