Thursday, November 1, 2012

Over $1.6 billion traded in the currency markets of Gambia annually without any visible impact on fundamental pillars of the economy, says Halifa Sallah

PDOIS Secretary-General, Halifa Sallah
The opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Organization for Independent and Socialism (PDOIS) have identified that over 1.6 billion dollars is traded in the currency markets of the Gambia annually without any visible impact on the four fundamental pillars of the economy, namely: “public sector investment, private sector investment, cooperative sector investment and informal sector investment.”

This is why we refer to the Gambian Economy as a transit economy. Monies appear to be leaving the country as fast as they enter rather than nestling in one sector to generate economic growth and employment, the party’s Secretary General Halifa Sallah explains to journalists during an October 20, 2012 press conference held at the Peoples’ Centre, Churchill’s Town. 

Mr. Sallah was speaking on Saturday when the PDOIS party announced “its commitment to attain the objectives of the second phase of the struggle for self determination and independence.” 

According to him, during the 1999 financial year, the APRC administration used to indicate the annual gross turnover of public enterprises and their contribution to the budget which amounted to 82 million dalasi. Now dividends from public enterprises are recorded as zero. 

He said a PDOIS led government would ensure that the annual turnover of public enterprises is scientifically calculated and made known to the public as a matter of duty and that performance contracts would be signed with all public sector operators to ensure that dividends are scientifically calculated and increased on annual basis to build up the account of sovereign national wealth. 

“The Gambia earnings from mineral resources have been elusive. PDOIS intends to make these earnings transparent and instrumental in promoting public sector investment,” he said. 

The private sector has been identified as the driving force of the Gambian economy by the APRC Government, he admits. 

He stated that the PDOIS has shown that banks invest more to gain profit from the redeeming of Treasury Bills that from private sector operators. The direction of financing is more towards commerce than the value added and employment generation sector.


“Even though Gambians contribute up to 1.7 billion dalasi annually as remittances from the Diaspora, there is no visible connection between the remittances and the productive base of the economy especially the value added Sector,” Mr. Sallah stressed.  

He assured that PDOIS will work consciously to ensure that the stock of sovereign national wealth and the productive base of the economy grow so that it would rely less on bank borrowing to meet recurrent expenditure.  

“Bank’s financial resources would be aligned with private sector demand for capital at reasonable interest rates. An Investment Bureau would be established by PDOIS to identify all areas of investments that could benefit from private sector investment and provide the necessary infrastructural and institutional support to make such investment productive and complementary to sustainable development.

“The cooperative sector has a gamut of micro financial institutions which could engage in the financing of cooperative enterprises. However, these financial institutions are not fully aligned to the cooperative productive base, especially the agricultural and horticultural and value added sectors, to ensure their marketability.
“Hence many villagers are mobilized to give their labour to cultivate crops for the head of state. PDOIS intends to encourage villages to have Village farms that would be supported to produce in order to utilize the earnings for village development purposes and support the needy,” he said. 

The PDOIS secretary-general explained that the informal economic sector in the Gambia provides the vast majority of Gambians and other Nationals in the Gambia with the means to earn a living. Dozens of weekly markets are scattered all over the country and close to the border with Senegal which provide wider markets for rural producers and traders. 

PDOIS will give emphasis to the development of such markets so that they would facilitate both infrastructural and institutional development and enhance the earnings of rural dwellers, he said.

Social sector

He said PDOIS holds that the economic and social sectors are irretrievably linked. 

It is by ensuring that the informal, private, cooperative and public sectors contribute their maximum potential on an annual basis that would facilitate the growth of sovereign national wealth.

This, he added, could be utilized to ensure the availability and affordability of quality education, from the early childhood to the University level; health, from the provision of health centres in each village and major referral hospitals in each region; environmental services such as the disposal of liquid and solid waste and the preservation of our flora and fauna; ensure the accessibility of social welfare services according to need. 

“It is the growth of such Sovereign National wealth that would make proper nutrition, safe drinking water, electricity and other communication services accessible, and affordable,” he argued.

Political struggle

Mr. Halifa Sallah explains that the attainment of the objectives of the second phase of the struggle for self determination and independence is the creation of the Republic with all its democratic and people-centred instruments, institutions and its transparent and accountable governance practices. 

“It has become apparent that Gambia is deemed to be a country without an internal opposition that could serve as an alternative, to put an end to such a distortion of the political realities of the country this is why this press conference is called,” he said. 

He announced that PDOIS will pioneer a “National Initiative” on a template that would guide the establishment of a “National Independent Electoral Commission” that would safeguard all political rights and a “Human Rights Commission” that will safeguard all human rights.

He added that they will also pioneer the creation of “Rural Government Structures” comprising village, district and regional councils that owe their authority to the consent of the people through periodic elections or the exercise of the right to recall. 

The party, whose slogan in the 2nd phase of the struggle is “Focusing on the Alternative”, intends to pioneer the drafting of a “Constitution of a Third Republic” with the active involvement of the people who would determine its coming into life at a referendum.

He said in the political domain, PDOIS stands for the assertion and consolidation of the sovereignty of the people. It conceives all rights and freedoms as inviolable and in extricable possessions of the sovereign person which ought to be protected and consolidated by the state and all its agencies.

He stressed that PDOIS sees no other role for the Government and the state in a sovereign Republic other than to safeguard the powers of the people and promote their liberty, prosperity and general welfare.

Strategic goals

Mr. Sallah noted that the Central Committee of PDOIS holds that the party has done its best to serve as an alternative voice which defends the liberty and prosperity of the people and exposes and combats any threat to such liberty and prosperity. “PDOIS is therefore a credible alternative,” he said.

He added that the party exposes all violation of rights that come to its notice and all incidence of deprivation or poverty. What the party needs is the support of the people to have the political weight to articulate concerns that the ruling party will be compelled to consider. 

“A political party is given weight by attending its rallies and public functions and by casting one’s vote in its favour. PDOIS’ primary role is to increase its political weight by heightening its visibility and showing what it is doing on a daily basis to promote the interest of the people,” he explained. 

He said the first task to be achieved in order to enhance PDOIS’ political weight is to unite with all political forces to promote electoral reform in the Gambia. 

PDOIS holds the minimum programme for electoral reform should comprise: “The restoration of the second round of voting; the leveling of the ground for multiparty contest by eliminating all abuses of incumbency and all unreasonable restrictions to participation as a voter or as a candidate; the extension of the right to vote to the Diaspora; the establishment of a term limit for the presidency to two five year terms; the ensuring of free access to the media by all parties and free dissemination of divergent views by both state and non state media; and the introduction of biometric system of registration and the paper ballot.”

He said a genuine democratic society must have a government in office whose existence must be based on the consent of the people and a government in waiting that could serve as a credible alternative. 

This story was first published on the Marketplace Business Newspaper on October 30, 2012, and republish by the Gambia News Online on the same day.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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