Sunday, August 25, 2013

Some basic facts about The Gambia's 2013 budget

1. 25% of the entire 2013 budget went to the Office of the President and the security forces

2. The government spends as much on the National Assembly as it spends on Trade, Industry and Employment 

3.Government spends three times as much on the Office of the President alone than in Agriculture.

4.Government spends more on Defense and Security than on Basic and secondary education

5. Government spends almost as much on the Interior Ministry as it does on Health and Social Welfare.

6. The Judiciary had  the dubious honor of being the least favored in the budgetary process, even lower than what Yaya Jammeh spent on the National Assembly.  

The agriculture sector which is by far the most important sector of Gambia's economy employs 75% of Gambians and biggest foreign exchange earner is not faring any better.  Jammeh spends more on himself as the occupant of State House than on the Ministry of Agriculture - nevermind all the talk about "grow what you eat, and eat what you grow."  He likes slogans, especially those that rhyme. 

As we have come to learn the hard way, what Jammeh says and what Jammeh does are two different things.  He claims his is a private sector-led economy when he spends as much on the useless National Assembly as he does on the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment charged with trade promotion, industrial development and youth employment.  So the claim that the Gambian economy is private sector led, and that the Gambian youth is top priority because they are the future of The Gambia is typical Jammeh paying lip service with empty rhetoric to one of the most important portfolios in government.

The judiciary is the most cost-effective of the lot, at least from the standpoint of the dictatorship.   Jammeh spends the least but gets the most out of the Courts by dictating to judges, most of whom are recruited outside the technical assistance route ( to escape scrutiny and strict supervision from cooperating agency or donor country ), and thus are placed under direct government contract.  They either do as told or they are fired. Tragically, as Gambians have come to expect from the Courts, injustice triumphs in most cases.  

As I have said in an earlier posting, the next supplementary budget exercise will be closely watched because of the budget shenanigans in previous years, especially in fiscal 2012. I hope the International Monetary Fund as well as the World Bank will be equally interested in scrutinizing any supplementary budget request from the new Finance Minister   This way, we will avoid another embarrassing exercise when three months before the end the 2012 fiscal year government submitted a D400 million supplementary budget request despite a record-breaking budget which contributed to the unsustainable domestic debt burden which, in turn, crowds out the private sector in its borrowing capacity, lower investments and higher interest rates.  Jammeh is his own worst enemy.  The IMF, World Bank and public scrutiny together, we hope, we will help Jammeh save Jammeh from himself in 2013.