Samba Jallow, the minority leader of the National Assembly, has raised growing concern over the country’s seemingly ailing economy.
Samba Jalloww revealed this during the approval of the earmarked budget for the coming year, tabled before lawmakers by the finance minister.
“I must continue to register my concern over the rising domestic and external debt and the budget and trade deficits we have registered in recent times… The domestic debt continues to rise unabated despite the numerous warnings from IMF (International Monetary Fund)…If the domestic debt continues to rise and so does the interest rate, the private sector finds it difficult to borrow money,” Jallow lamented.
Dissecting his worry across all aspects of development as the Assembly penned the 2016 budget, Jallow said in order to have a steady economic growth, government needs to bridge the gap between the import and export.
He said: “Another concern I have is the widening gap between import and export on our balance of payment- these areas are very important and if they are not tackled, it will be very difficult for us to stabilize our economy… The Government also needs to look into addressing the wage bill which has now gone beyond 2 billion.
“The widening of the balance of payment deficit is attributed to the Ebola outbreak… but the main problem was the trade deficit. There was a 3.2 growth in import while export declined to 0.6%. And I believe the continuous decline in the groundnut subsector has contributed in the decline in the export. Groundnut is what gives us most of our foreign exchange.”
From agriculture, diplomatic ties to re-export, the minority leader briefly lamented on areas that need urgent improvement to expedite economic growth, saying “As we speak, the Government has not even told farmers how and at what price it will buy their groundnuts. The Government will also have to engage in agricultural diversification and bring back our re-export trade. We will continue to face problems if we do not do some of these adjustments. The Government needs to mend its relationship with the European Union so that it can have budget support.”
Locking horns on the issue of accepting conditions to enjoy foreign aid, Netty Baldeh, the National Assembly Member for Tumana constituency, hit back at the suggestion of a reconciliation with the European Union, blatantly putting that “you cannot mortgage your sovereignty with external support”.
While the approval of the 2016 budget was ongoing, lawmakers from different constituencies made various final observations in the document.
Cherno Jallow said the money that has been allocated to tourism is a little insufficient, adding that more investment is needed in a sector that is becoming more and more central in the country’s GDP.
Babucarr Nyang of Banjul South and Abdoulie Saine of Banjul Central, called for more employment of youths in various ministries and increase spending in the country’s security, respectively.
For the Majority Leader, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Gambia’s revenue performance has been satisfactory but there is a need to reduce the wage bill and borrowing, both domestic and external.