#National News

IMF Grants Debt Relief To Gambia, Others

Apr 15, 2020, 3:40 PM

As campaign mounts on the high debt scene on African states, the International Monetary Fund has this week approved immediate debt service relief for The Gambia, among eighteen (18) other African countries. While the measures announced offer breathing space for an initial period of six months, it forms wide-enough a gap allowing financial resources to be channelled towards other pressing sectors.

Although it pleases to see states within the periphery as Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Mali among countries to benefit from the measure, I am disappointed Senegal was not included.

BBC Africa on Tuesday reported that, “Debt cancellation and relief for African countries are among measures that have been called for by advocacy groups to enable some of the most vulnerable countries in the region cope with the worsening pandemic.” Even though I welcome the announcement, there is more to impoverishment in Africa than meet the eye. Debt repayment regime is as complex an issue as the many countries & priorities on the continent.

Speaking in Beijing recently, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson has hinted his country is open to the idea of debt cancellation for Africa. Enticing proposition indeed, though one wonders if Beijing’s soft language here had to do with moving curtain on bad rap from the press on ill-treatment African migrants face in the country:

Later this week, the “G20”industrialized and most wealthy nations in the world will meet to discuss critical issues facing the globe; with the virus pandemic & debt no doubt featuring high on the agenda. Given that the world is stacked with complexities & challenges than ever before since the end of the Second World War, this could be the most important G20 ever.

I am though pleased to note that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on the G20 to fund a stimulus package worth trillions of dollars for businesses, workers and households in developing countries. As much as we welcome the gesture, it remains doubtful will come to any fruition.

The coronavirus pandemic has opened eyes to certain injustices in the world today with regards to power & wealth dynamics; the injustices of it all. By this publication, I call on the IMF to cancel all of Africa’s debt, implement ‘Special Drawing Rights’ to assist poverty stricken nations stem the tide of their poor situations. Despite good intentions, one stand hesitant to accept pro-poor initiatives ever work, except adds to the corruption problem. Total debt cancellation will allow The Gambia to stand on its two feet facing the world.

I also call on the United States to waive sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and such adversarial foes, politically at least, so that these countries can access enough food and essential medical supplies to save lives. Similarly, Israel must lift the illegal blockade on Gaza, allow Palestinians the freedoms to live humane, prosperous lives.

Gibril Saine

P.S – IMF announcement today means The Gambia will save five hundred million (D500, 000,000) dalasi each month on interest payments alone from the budget allocation. While govt already has over a billion dalasi spend on Covid-19, the ministry of Finance has got to ensure these monies are returned to the consolidated account at the Central bank. Parliament should return back to work.

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