Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gambia: Workweek cut for rest, worship and farming

A local fears the move might encourage laziness: party goers attend an open-air music concert in Latrikunda German/photo/Modou S. Joof/May 2012
The Presidency in Banjul, The Gambian capital, has cut working days from five to four (Monday to Thursday) and increased working hours per day from eight to ten (8am-6pm).

A Jan., 18, 2013 statement from the Office of President Yahya Jammeh said the cause for the “strange decision” is meant to set Friday - a rest, worship and farming day for Gambians.

The presidency argued the new work system will allow Muslims to worship Allah (God) and give people “more time” to partake in agricultural work – citing President Jammeh’s “back to the land call” for Gambians to “grow what you eat and eat what you grow”.

The new work schedule kick starts officially from Feb. 1, 2013, the statement noted.

Financial businesses to be affected

Banks and Foreign Exchange Bureaus in the West African country, the smallest in mainland Africa, operate six days a week, from Monday to Saturday.

Financial businesses and people are likely to be affected. The changes mean their business days will be cut to five.

Business and financial reporter and blogger Lamin Jahateh observed that “the country will be shutting down for a whole day while most parts of the world continue in active business and financial transactions.”

Though the Office of the President said banks can operate on Saturdays to compensate for the lost Fridays, the fact is that they will still be deprived of one work-day. 

President Jammeh is bestowed with a wide-range of executive powers - from hiring and firing to changing the nomenclature of institutions or workdays and hours/Photo:AFP/Nov/ 2011

Room for party

Meanwhile, some locals have already added good reasons, at least to them, in welcoming this latest development.

The week ends Thursday, so we have from Friday to Sunday to train and play friendly matches in preparation for the upcoming qualifiers for the “Nawettan” (non-league soccer championship), says Lamin Sonko, who claims to be Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi.

“If it is for prayer and farming, that is good,” said Ismaila Manneh. “I am afraid people could become work-shy knowing they have three days off instead of the usual Saturday and Sunday.

I hope it will not create more room for partying – people need to work harder because things are getting tough in this country, he said.

But one street hustler who is unmoved by the workweek-cut and work hour-rise is Momodou Barry.

“I work every day and will continue to work every day, holiday or no holiday,” he said. “Even if the official working days are reduced, am not working for the government.” 

Unemployment records are high in the poor country currently engaged in a dialogue stalemate with the European Union over human rights and governance.    

Written by Modou S. Joof

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